Anne Harris, Pfizer Australia & New Zealand Managing Director, joined Medicine Australia members Nirelle Tolstoshev, Managing Director, Organon Australia & New Zealand, Marcus Wyborn, Executive Chair, Smartways Logistics, and more than 1500 other business leaders at the 2023 Vinnies CEO Sleepout to support the thousands of vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in Australia.
Ms Harris, Ms Tolstoshev and Mr Wyborn took part in the event on 22 June 2023, as part of a Life Sciences sector team called ‘Health for Homeless’. As a healthcare company committed to improving health equity, Pfizer is committed to raising awareness and funds to address this growing crisis.
“The Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout is an event Pfizer supports as part of its commitment to community care. The soaring cost of living and lack of affordable housing is driving a growing number of people to seek assistance from Vinnies in their time of need. Pfizer’s CSR program, Pfizer CARES, encompasses initiatives aimed at caring for patients, colleagues, the community and the environment. Supporting the CEO Sleepout is a meaningful step in fostering a more inclusive society,” said Ms Harris.
Now in its 18th year, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout once again garnered an outpouring of support from leaders from the corporate, government and NGO sectors. Keen to help raise vital funds and support Australians experiencing homelessness, the team slept rough outdoors on one of the coldest nights of the year at White Bay Cruise Terminal in Rozelle, Sydney. With only the comfort of a cardboard sheet and a sleeping bag, the team got a small glimpse into the bleak reality for more than 122,000 Australians experiencing homelessness.
“The biopharma industry gives back to the communities we serve in meaningful ways, and our collaboration as a part of the CEO Sleepout is another example of how we work together to make a positive impact in the lives of some of our country’s most vulnerable people. Yes, it was cold and uncomfortable, yet it was only one night for Marcus, Anne and I. But it is many more nights for a growing number of Australians. Donations to Vinnies are routed directly back into meals, accommodation and healthcare services critical for people in need. This small team will grow in 2024 – industry leaders be ready for our recruitment campaign!”, Ms Tolstoshev said.
As members of the Life Sciences sector team, Anne, Nirelle and Marcus took part in an activity to ‘Walk a Mile’ in the shoes of homeless people – and were tasked with navigating the complex process of accessing housing, general practice, and mental health and alcohol/dependency services to try and get shelter and help with dependency.
“It’s a confronting fact that that if you do not have a permanent address, you cannot access many of these services. The work of Vinnies is critical and needs ongoing funding – they support the housing and health needs of people at risk of or facing homelessness with immediate accommodation services and access to Vinnies’ health clinic, while helping homeless people navigate access to broader health services, long term housing and many other supports” Ms Harris said.
“Organon is dedicated to the health and well-being of women, and I’m committed to advocating on behalf of women, and highlighting issues that disproportionately impact women. Homelessness rates in Australia are much higher than most people realise, and females are the fastest growing number of homeless, accounting for 81.7% of the increase in people experiencing homelessness in 2021”, said Ms Tolstoshev.
Homelessness is a complex issue with no single cause. A shortage of affordable and available rental housing, domestic and family violence, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, financial crisis, exiting state care and/or prison, and economic and social exclusion are all factors that contribute to homelessness. People of all ages and backgrounds can be affected, with a disproportionate impact on First Nations people and recent migrants.
Each year, the millions of dollars raised through the Vinnies CEO Sleepout funds the provision of crisis accommodation, food, healthcare, counselling, education, employment, and other support services to find permanent housing for vulnerable people throughout the country.
Donations for the Vinnies CEO Sleepout can be made up until 31 July 2023.
To donate visit: ceosleepout.org.au/sponsor.
Text and feature image: Pfizer.