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Passing a torch for the homeless


30 June 2022 at 8:33 am
Wendy Williams
Gandel Foundation CEO Vedran Drakulic OAM has passed a metaphorical torch to Australians Investing in Women CEO Julie Reilly OAM to represent philanthropy in the annual Vinnies CEO sleepout.


Wendy Williams | 30 June 2022 at 8:33 am


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Passing a torch for the homeless
30 June 2022 at 8:33 am

Gandel Foundation CEO Vedran Drakulic OAM has passed a metaphorical torch to Australians Investing in Women CEO Julie Reilly OAM to represent philanthropy in the annual Vinnies CEO sleepout.

For eight years Gandel Foundation CEO Vedran Drakulic OAM has taken part in the annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout, becoming one of the Sleepout’s long-term participants and biggest fundraisers.

The one-night event, which takes place over one of the longest and coldest nights of the year, sees hundreds of CEOs, business owners and community and government leaders sleep outdoors to support the many Australians who are experiencing homelessness and people at risk of homelessness. 

Each participant commits to raising a minimum amount of funds to help Vinnies provide essential services to the people who need them. 

Since rugging up for the first time, Drakulic has raised over $1.1 million, thanks in large part to a commitment from John and Pauline Gandel to match all funds raised for the past seven years. This year he exceeded all his previous results to reach a record $349,000.

But this year will be his last – his “old bones can’t do it anymore”, and he feels he has “earned his stripes”.

Instead he is passing the torch on to Australians Investing in Women CEO Julie Reilly OAM, who wants to bring some attention to the need for a gender lens on the issue.

Vedran Drakulic poses with a with a ‘thank you’ poster from Vinnies

Vedran Drakulic is one of the Sleepout’s biggest fundraisers.

Drakulic told Pro Bono News he feels he has made a significant contribution, not only in fundraising terms, since he began taking part.

“In a way it always felt that this was another way for me to walk the talk if you will and try and get an even closer sense of what it means to support organisations like Vinnies to do the work they do,” he said.

“For us it is just one night and you might feel a bit stiff and what-not but you get over it, but imagine if you had to try and find a place like that night after night. It just brings it home to me.”

He said the event was as much about raising awareness about the challenges and complexities of homelessness as it was about raising funds.

“On the night they always have people with lived experience there who talk about their journey to homelessness and from homelessness,” he said.

“It is a target audience that doesn’t necessarily engage with homelessness on a daily basis and so for them to hear these stories and to understand that it really is a complex issue [is really important]. 

“It is not just about housing. There are many other things that need to be provided for a person to break that vicious cycle of homelessness. So it is really great to see these people who come together, CEOs and managers, that they actually get to understand and realise how complex the matter is.”

Drakulic said he was pleased to “pass the torch” to Reilly, who will do her first CEO sleepover in 2023.

For her part, Reilly said she had long admired and provided modest support for Drakulic’s fundraising for the CEO Sleepout. 

“When I read that Vedran was stepping down I suggested he pass the ‘philanthropy baton’ on to me as I was keen to highlight the growing number of women facing homelessness – and to bring some attention to the need for a gender lens on the issue and to consider the drivers of women’s homelessness given philanthropy’s interest in addressing root causes,” Reilly told Pro Bono News.

“It’s fundamental to the work I lead at Australians Investing In Women.”

She said there are three things that she hopes to achieve.

“To continue Vedran’s legacy by fundraising within the philanthropic community to support the work of Vinnies.

“To put the spotlight on the growing number of women experiencing homelessness who are less visible on the street but every bit as prevalent when we look at the fastest growing cohort in homelessness being older single women.

“To sharpen the focus on root causes – being the cumulative effects of gendered economic disadvantage over a lifetime, and family violence which accounts for half of the women seeking help from homelessness services, many with children. This is part of my very early lived experience and an issue very close to my heart.”


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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