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 involved 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. Ecclesia Housing became the Housing Association.
  • Myree remains on the Board of Ecclesia Housing and on the Management Committee of Churches Housing Inc.

Ecclesia 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. Ecclesia also has generalist housing, available to people on the public housing waiting list. Ecclesia 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. By 2012, there were only 23 licensed boarding houses with 470 beds, but in reality, less than 400 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 will be 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. 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. This year, Jeanette Russell, a member of Management Committee who works with some of the schools involved in the Christmas Project, will also speak at some of the Masses.  St Patrick’s Church has focused its appeal throughout Advent on our Christmas project. Most 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. St Pius ‘ Primary School, Enmore
  6. Christian Brothers’ High School, Lewisham, Upper primary classes
  7. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School, Randwick

The first two 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, collects items and bags and, along with friends and helpers, makes up 120 cosmetic bags for women in boarding houses. She mobilizes friends to cook individual cakes and puddings and other items for Christmas hampers. At a Christmas breakfast, she collects festive food items for our hampers. She distributes 4,000 address labels to local schools so children can write Christmas cards for lonely people on our list, collects, readdresses and posts these.

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.

Catholic Education Commission, Sydney

For many years Anne  has coordinated the collection of festive food for our hampers. She and other staff members bring it over in the second week of December.

Sunday Congregation at Canisius College, Pymble

Coordinated by Kath,  members contribute festive food items and cash

Makiko, at Qantas group travel organizes donations of toiletries and gifts from staff.