Homelessness Counts: Parish of Merewether

Thank the Lord for his guidance, encouragement and love, for he has guided and encouraged our minister and the congregation at St Augustine’s Anglican Church, Merewether, over the last three years in exploring a ministry of serving the disadvantaged and homeless people in our area.

Merewether is fairly unique in Newcastle in that it is home to some of the most affluent people in our city whilst also being the home of some of the most disadvantaged people in our region. As such we saw a need to include these more disadvantaged people in our ministry and in this we were inspired locally by the work of the Uniting Church at Glebe Road, Merewether which has for over ten years, been providing a weekly free three-course meal to the disadvantaged and homeless in our area.

Having attended this meal for the last five years, I noticed a need for those attending the meal to be able to be together and communicate with one another in a more extended social setting.

With the co-operation and good grace of the then minister Niall McKay at the Uniting Church and with the great support of our minister the Rev’d Cameron Freese and the congregation of St Augustine’s, we were able to begin a fortnightly Saturday afternoon BBQ at two locations, Dixon Park, Merewether and Nesca Park, Cooks Hill.

These BBQ’s have been running for the last three years and typically serve 40 disadvantaged people each month. We serve hot sausages and freshly made salad, bread and cold drinks to whoever comes along.

We have found over the years that the BBQ provides the disadvantaged a very rare social opportunity to get together in a peaceful, non-threatening and welcoming environment.

For those who come from the nearby Housing Commission Flats, the BBQ also provides valuable respite and a getaway from “cheek by jowl” living in high density housing, where dysfunction is ever present.

Thanks very much to Fr Garry Dodd and Paula who initially made the BBQs a reality. Thank you especially to Rosemary Allen and Peter Eyre who have provided tireless BBQ service. Thank you also to the Rev’d Jennifer Burn of the Uniting Church, Merewether.

By Martyn Bosworth