Name: Gladys Demissie
Position in the Society: State President Western Australia
Hometown: Perth, Western Australia
How did you first get involved with the Society?
I have had a long history with the Society. Growing up in Singapore, I was introduced to Vinnies at a young age as part of the Parish Youth Conference, as my Mother was a Vincentian. I was in the Girls’ Conference, and we visited families with a focus on the children, taking them out on excursions to the beach and other local spots, along with running a little library from the temporary church for children in the local area.
Describe your experiences of being a conference member.
In 2009, I joined the local St Vincent De Paul Society at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish and became the Conference Treasurer soon after. As a member of a local conference, I participate in the principal activity of the organisation: visiting individuals and families in their homes when they seek assistance and support. With help from the local council, I set up a local forum in my community to meet with other emergency relief organisations in the area so we could network and work together to assist people in the local community. In 2012, I joined the Finance and Risk Committee, and in 2014 I was appointed State Treasurer of the Society and served on the State Council and Operations Committee. These roles have allowed me to have a better appreciation of the society’s broader work and to influence strategic outcomes.
What are your key aims during your time as president over the next four years?
My aims are to build on the good work that has already been undertaken, to support people in the valuable role they play in the conference structure and to grow a stronger awareness of the Society’s work in Western Australia. I would also like to ensure the work that we do as a Society continues to be as it is intended—determining how we can best support the less advantaged and finding innovative ways of working by being relevant to the needs of the community.
What are the challenges members of the Society face in carrying out good works?
I am a firm believer in our mission and values, as they provide us with a solid foundation and set the ground rules for what we are about and what we do to be a just and compassionate society. However, how we put this into practice can be challenging. Issues around growing our membership, the ageing population and the ever growing gap between the wealthy and poor are some of the other challenges we face.
Where would you like to see the Society in five years?
I would like to see the Society continuing its good works, but it may be doing so in different ways. We need to sustain our membership and volunteer base and ensure that what we do is both understood and championed by the community. I believe there will need to be greater collaboration and cooperation among similar not-for-profit organisations so that we build resilience among the people we support and help.