Brotherhood of St Laurence

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The Brotherhood of St Laurence is an Australian not-for-profit organisation that works toward a vision of an Australia free of poverty. Based in Melbourne, the Brotherhood (as it is colloquially known) has a national profile. It undertakes research, delivers services and advocates on behalf of people experiencing disadvantage.[1] It works not just to alleviate poverty but to prevent it, focusing on those who are at risk at four critical stages (transitions) in their lives:

  • children and families - in the early years, both at home and in school
  • young people - moving through school and into work or further education
  • adults - seeking employment and training
  • older people - facing the challenges of retirement and ageing.

Within this broad framework, the Brotherhood pays particular attention to issues relating to refugees and settlement, financial inclusion and social inclusion.[1]

History and beginnings[edit]

St Laurence[edit]

The Brotherhood of St Laurence was named after St Laurence, the patron saint of the poor. Laurence lived in Rome at the time of Pope Sixtus (AD 258–276). He was one of seven deacons appointed by the Christian church in Rome, responsible for collecting donations and distributing them to people in need.[2]

Under the Emperor Valerian, the church came under attack. Laurence was ordered by the Prefect of Rome to hand over the church’s treasures. In response, he assembled the poor of the city, among whom he had shared the church’s possessions. He presented them to the Prefect, saying, 'These are the treasures of the church'.[2] For this action he was punished by being slowly roasted to death on an iron grid. St Laurence is one of the most famous Christian martyrs.


The Brotherhood of St Laurence was founded on 8 December 1930 in the Anglican parish church of St Stephen in Adamstown, a working class suburb of Newcastle in New South Wales. Its founder, Father Gerard Kennedy Tucker, dreamed of building a dedicated group of like-minded men who would serve the church and the community.[3] The Brotherhood was established as a religious order of the Anglican Church, with members including priests and lay brothers.

In 1933 the Brotherhood of St Laurence accepted the invitation of Canon Maynard of St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne (with the approval of the Archbishop of Melbourne) and moved to St Mary's Mission in Fitzroy to help the poor in that neighbourhood. Young men who wished to serve others in the name of Christ came together as a community at St Mary’s and attended lectures at St Peter’s. They lived simply, studied, prayed and helped with social welfare activities.

At the height of the Great Depression, when some 30 per cent of the workforce were jobless, the Brotherhood became more actively involved in helping the unemployed.[4] After the 1939–45 War, there was little interest in expanding the Brotherhood as a religious order. However, the welfare work of the Brotherhood continued and expanded under Father Tucker’s leadership. Father Tucker died in 1974.


Children and families[edit]

The Brotherhood supports families experiencing social or financial disadvantage. It cares for the needs of both children and parents, working alongside families to help them be strong, healthy and happy.

The organisation assists families through:

  • services in the areas of child care, playgroups and parent support
  • research and the development of policy options for government in areas such as education and family support.[5]

Through HIPPY Australia, the Brotherhood operates a national program to help families and communities develop literacy and numeracy skills in preschool children.[6]

Young people[edit]

The organisation works to ensure all young people can stay engaged in learning, achieve their educational goals, find meaningful employment and live a fulfilling life, whether they are from a refugee family, from a household struggling with poverty, or facing other difficulties. They assist young people through:

  • services providing support for school students, support for school leavers and support for parents
  • research and policy development in areas such as community-based education, training, employment and youth support services.[5]

Employment and training[edit]

The Brotherhood provides training and job placement services, as well as extended social support, to people who are long-term unemployed, who face significant barriers to getting a job, or who have personal difficulties. They support job seekers and those looking to develop their personal skills through:

  • services in training, assistance moving into work, and social enterprises
  • research and advocacy for streamlined services, reduced red tape and better employment and training assistance.[7]

Older people[edit]

The Brotherhood has been caring for this vulnerable group since the 1940s and continues today with an approach that recognises the importance of family, friends and community in the lives of older people. The organisation tackles poverty and social isolation among older people through:

  • services and programs that provide residential aged care, care in the community, day and respite services, independent living and carer support
  • research and the development of policy options for governments in areas such as affordable housing, employment, taxation and retirement incomes.[8]

The Brotherhood's Coolibah Centre, for members of the community aged 55 and over, was Victoria's first senior citizens' centre, established in 1946.[9]

Refugees and settlement[edit]

The Brotherhood works in partnership with communities, government and businesses in order to influence public policy and program development and achieve the social inclusion of Australia's newest arrivals. The organisation assists with settlement of refugees through:

  • services that focus on family, youth, employment and settling in Australia
  • research that investigates social inclusion, employment participation, community capacity building and culturally responsive support.

The Brotherhood's Ecumenical Migration Centre (EMC), established in 1962, has been at the forefront of the migrant rights movement in Australia for over forty years. It pioneered the delivery of services to migrant communities and today continues to strengthen the capacity and infrastructure of new and emerging communities.[10]

Financial inclusion[edit]

By offering saving, financial literacy and small loans programs, the Brotherhood gives low-income earners the chance to build assets. It uses a microfinance model, which gives low-income earners the opportunity to save, take out more manageable loans and gain control of their finances. The Brotherhood also conducts research to assess the effectiveness of its programs, enabling the organisation to lobby for fairer and more accessible financial services.[11][12]


The Brotherhood runs a diverse range of businesses, or social enterprises, which raise funds for its programs, provide job seekers with training and a job, offer affordable goods and services to people on low incomes, and establish community connections.

The organisation's businesses also show its commitment to environmental and social responsibility through encouraging recycling, reducing energy consumption and minimising waste. This includes reconditioning fridges, retrofitting houses to make them more energy efficient, recycling books and re-using vintage clothing.[13] The Brotherhood’s social enterprises include:

  • Community Stores
  • Brotherhood Books Online
  • Phoenix Fridges
  • Brotherhood Green
  • FloodSax
  • Hunter Gatherer vintage clothing stores

Community stores[edit]

The Brotherhood has 20 community stores (also known as op-shops) where it sells donated furniture, clothing and other household items. As well as selling low-cost goods to families and bargain hunters, the organisation offers job opportunities and a place for community connection. Among the Brotherhood's community stores, two Hunter Gatherer shops specialise in selling hand-picked vintage clothing.


In 2010, 1300 volunteers donated their time and skills to the Brotherhood in Victoria.[14] In 2009, it was estimated that the contribution of volunteers was worth approximately $6.24 million. Individual and corporate volunteering opportunities are available with the Brotherhood, as well as student placements.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Telling the stories that matter. "St Laurence, Martyr, Deacon, Keeper of the Church's Wealth". Retrieved 2010-10-08.
  3. ^ Brief History of the Brotherhood of St Laurence
  4. ^ Mike Wilson(2010). "The Brotherhood of st Laurence Timeline". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  5. ^ a b The Brotherhood of st Laurence (2010). "Annual Report 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  6. ^ HIPPY (2008). "About HIPPY". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  7. ^ Brotherhood of St Laurence (2010). "Centre for Work and Learning". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  8. ^ The Brotherhood of St Laurence (2010). "Older People". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  9. ^ The Age Newspaper Online/Adam Carey (2010-12-08). "Beloved Brotherhood's 80 years of kindness". Melbourne. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  10. ^ The Brotherhood. "Ecumenical Migration Centre (EMC)". Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  11. ^ Brotherhood of St Laurence (2008). "Money Matters". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  12. ^ The Age Newspaper Online/Bina Brown (2010-06-15). "Good habits are the key to security". Melbourne. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  13. ^ The Brotherhood Website. "Brotherhood Businesses". Retrieved 2011-01-12.
  14. ^ The Brotherhood of st Laurence (2010). "Volunteering". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  15. ^ The Brotherhood (2010). "Annual Report 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-01-11.


  • The Brotherhood of st Laurence. "Our History".
  • The Brotherhood of st Laurence. "Our Services".
  • The Brotherhood of st Laurence. "Volunteer with us".
  • Brotherhood Books. "Brotherhood Online Book Store".
  • Mod-style Eyewear. "Mod-Style Eyewear".
  • Brotherhood Green. "Brotherhood Green".
  • FloodSax. "FloodSax".
  • Scott, David (2000). He got things done. The Brotherhood of st Laurence.
  • O'Hare, Fr Jeff (2009). Brotherhood:Stories of Courage and Resilience. The Penguin Group.
  • Colin Holden & Richard Trembath (2008). Divine Discontent the Brotherhood of st Laurence: a history. Australian Scholarly Publishing.
  • The Brotherhood of st Laurence (1954). "Thanks Be", The Autobiography of Gerard Kennedy Tucker.
  • Carter, I.R (1967). God and the Three Shillings the story of the brotherhood of St Laurence. Landsdowne Press.
  • Handfield, John (1980). "Friends and Brothers", A life of father Tucker, founder of the Brotherhood of st Laurence and community aid abroad. Hyland House.

External links[edit]