Gethsemane works with appropriate State and Community agencies, in a form of practical partnership, when issues arise in regard to mental wellbeing.

Various Groups Involvement

Gethsemane Community Inc works with a range of groups who themselves have similar goals to care for homeless people. The first of these, Eccelesia Housing Ltd and Churches Housing inc, is closely related to their core work. The second, Coalition for Appropriate Supported Accommodation (CASA) involves a number of groups who work with them for common goals and the third, St Patrick’s Church Hill, is a community who is a constant supporter of Gethsemane Community. Sr Myree is directly involved in all these sets of relationships.

Eccelesia Housing Ltd and Churches Housing inc

In 1998,  Myree Harris rsj joined the Board of Churches Community Housing Inc. The focus of this association was to assist Churches to join partnerships with State Government to utilize Church land to develop social or affordable housing.

  • In 1998, a project put forward by CCH on behalf of Gethsemane Community gained funding for the purchase of the house at 5 Oxford St, Petersham and its refurbishment for the community. Gethsemane Community moved into its new premises in May 1999.
  • Some years later, CCH also became  a Housing Association and Gethsemane asked for its lease to be transferred to the management of the new Association.
  • The Office of Community Housing asked that the two functions of CCH Ltd be split. This happened in 2009. Churches Housing Inc remained the peak body working with churches. Amélie Housing became the Housing Association.
  • Myree left the Board of Churches Housing Ltd in 2016 but remains an Honorary Life member. In 2017, Amélie Housing Ltd merged with Amelia Housing Ltd.

    Amélie Housing takes over the landlord function for organizations which have supported accommodation. Support partners, of which Gethsemane Community is one, provide the care needed by residents. Amélie also has generalist housing, available to people on the public housing waiting list. Amélie also develops new affordable housing through NRAS program ( National Rental Affordability System)

    Coalition for Appropriate Supported Accommodation (CASA)

    Myree Harris rsj was one of the four founders of CASA in 1995. She has convened the coalition ever since. CASA meets monthly and focuses on advocacy. From the beginning, the chief focus was working to assist residents of licensed boarding houses. In 1997, there were 140 such facilities in NSW, with 2,186 beds. In 1998, through systemic advocacy, the State Labor Government released the Boarding House Reform Program costing $66 million, $52 million recurrent. This moved 150 of the highest level needs residents out of the sector into 24 hr supported accommodation provided by Non-Government organizations. There was also funding to assist those who remained in boarding houses: Home Care provided personal care services for those who needed it, there was funding for primary and secondary health and the Active Linking Initiative helped residents develop their skills and become involved in community activities.

    The Boarding House Expert Advisory Group was set up to advise on the implementation of the Reform program. Myree Harris RSJ and Rev Harry Herbert from Uniting Care NSW Act, another CASA member, were among the first to be appointed. Now there are four CASA members on the group.

    Regular monitoring by the Licensing team from Ageing and Disability began to have an effect and boarding houses closed. With the development of a Screening Tool, high level needs people were not able to go into the system. The development of a Closure Protocol meant that, following a closure, residents were assessed for their housing and support needs and often went to aged care, to new group homes or received support to enable them to live independently. By2019, there were only 18 Assisted Assisted Boarding Boarding Houses, with less than 300 residents.

    CASA has lobbied consistently since 1995 for new legislation to protect these most vulnerable people. On 23rd October 2012, Hon Andrew Constance announced that the Boarding Houses Bill 2012 had passed through the Upper House. It was implemented from 1st January 2013 and will also protect residents of what has been known as the unlicensed sector. These are the poorest, most needy and vulnerable of all. Finally, Councils can monitor conditions and impose fines. Residents will have the protection of written occupancy agreements which will prevent summary evictions. This is a great step forward.

    St Patrick’s Church Hill

    St Patrick’s Church Hill, a ministry of the Marist Fathers, is the oldest Catholic Church in Australia. It was Mary MacKillop’s parish for some years and she worked closely with the Marist priests to assist the very poor in the Rocks area of Sydney. St Patrick’s is Gethsemane Community’s greatest supporter. The parish is one of Gethsemane’s very few regular donors, making monthly donations to assist us. This is greatly appreciated.

    St Patrick’s has, for many years “adopted” our Christmas Project. For years, Myree has spoken at about six of the 12 Sunday Masses at St Pat’s on the first Sunday of Advent, explaining how the project assists many lonely, poor and vulnerable people to have a happier Christmas. More recently some members of the executive have supported her in this role. Parishioners are invited to place donations in a box set aside for this purpose and to take a label to put on the envelope of a Christmas card. About 6,000 Christmas cards are sent by people who attend Mass there. St Patrick’s Church has focused its appeal throughout Advent on our Christmas project. A great deal of the funds for the project come from their parishoners.

    Other Supporters of the Christmas Project


    Seven schools collect items, pack and deliver Christmas presents to boarding houses or aged care facilities. These are:

    1. Corpus Christi Primary School, St Ives
    2. Mount St Joseph, Milperra
    3. St Theres’s Primary School, Mascot
    4. St Brigid’s Primary School, Marrickville
    5. Chevalier College, Bowral.
    6. Christian Brothers’ High School, Lewisham, Upper primary classes
    7. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School, Randwick

    Most of the schools have been involved for many years.

    20 other schools collect and donate toiletries or socks for Gethsemane to put in the Christmas parcels.

    Individuals and other groups

    Maura, an ex-student of Myree, now organises a version of the Christmas Project in the Wollongong area. She makes up and and distributes hundreds of gift packs to women’s refuges and to homeless people.
    Catholic Education Office, Wollongong takes 4500 Christmas Card labels for schools in their diocese and organises for cards to be sent. CEO Wollongong has covered the cost of printing all Christmas card labels for a number of years.

    Exercise, Prescription and Physiotherapy at Burwood.

    Greg and Robyn, their staff and clients donate festive food. Clients also donate money so Greg can buy and deliver hams to seven licensed boarding houses in the Inner West of Sydney.

    Sunday Congregation at Canisius College, Pymble

    Coordinated by Anne, members contribute festive food items and cash

    The Sisters of St Joseph, residents at Marian Court Strathfield, residents at the MacKillop Grange Retirement Village at Mosman all donate money, toiletries and small tins of food for hampers.