As part of the Society’s restructure, five operational regions were created to ensure consistent service and support throughout the state – North East (Maitland/Newcastle & Lismore), North West (Bathurst & Armidale), South (Wollongong & Wagga Wagga) , Metropolitan (Parramatta, Sydney, and Broken Bay) and West (Wilcannia-Forbes).

These five regions replaced the ten Central Councils that operated under the former structure.

Each region is headed by a Regional Director reporting to the Executive Director, Membership, Volunteers and Regional Operations. Regional Directors oversee all operations within the new geographical footprints and work to support the Central Council Presidents in their regions.

The five Regional Directors during 2019/20 were:

Clare Van Doorn: North East

Phil Donnan: North West

Renee Cooper: South

Gayl Purchase: Metropolitan

Kelly Morgan: West

The new organisational structure does not affect Central Councils, which continue to operate as usual and work through their Regional Councils and Conferences to support the work of members. The role of the Central Council Presidents is unchanged.

The Membership, Volunteers and Regional Operations directorate supports members in all Central Council areas and each region has staff available to support our people in their work.

Under the new structure, Regional Directors are responsible for providing support to members within each of the Central Councils in their area. This means that there are membership support staff which remain closely aligned within each Central Council – because of this revised structure wherein staff are managed as part of a single directorate there is a consistent standard of support provided to all members across the state.

Each of the five Regional Directors also coordinate communication and effective working relationships between all parts of the Society operating in their region.

This centre-led change is a key part of our consistent state-wide management structure that enables initiative and enterprise at a regional level. It parallels the single state-wide management structure for Vinnies Services; Commercial Enterprise, Fundraising and Communications and our enabling functions.

This will ensure efficient and consistent provision of excellent services to the people we assist throughout NSW.

Read more about the experience of our South Regional Director, Renee Cooper below.


Renee Cooper


To help bring about better outcomes and a consistent standard of care for the people we assist, we introduced a new region-based structure over the past year.

Heading up each of these regions are Regional Directors, like Renee Cooper, who play an important role in empowering our members and ensuring our services continue to support people in need.

What does your role as Regional Director entail?

The role of Regional Director South is a diverse role with each day bringing something new!

As a Regional Director I provide support, care and assistance to the two Central Councils, their Regions and Conferences so our members and volunteers can carry out their work of providing a hand up to those in their local communities who are doing it tough.

Our Regional Team implements strategies and initiatives to engage our members and volunteers as well as the wider community. A key role for the Regional Director is to bring together all Society people across the region to work collaboratively as one strong team.

What parts of the state does the South region cover?

The South Region brings together the Wagga Wagga Central Council and Wollongong Central Council.

The Wagga Wagga Central Council extends from the Victorian border towns of Albury, Tocumwal and Mulwala through to Griffith in the west and across to Wagga Wagga and Tumbarumba in the east. The Wollongong Central Council footprint encompasses the Southern Highlands across to Shoalhaven and up to Wollongong, Campbelltown and Camden.

What have been the biggest achievements and challenges over the past financial year for the South Region?

Our biggest challenge has also been our greatest achievement this year. In late December and January many of our towns and communities across the South Region were confronted with devastating bushfires.

Our Conferences were able to respond to the needs of the community immediately with food, clothing, blankets and toiletries as well as emotional support. Many of our members who were also affected still fronted to provide care and support to their fellow community members.

The devastating impact of the fires saw staff from across the South pull together to support our members and volunteers in ensuring we were able to help thousands of people start the process of recovery; we were also supported by many members from across NSW who travelled down to the Shoalhaven Region which was severely impacted to ensure we were able to assist as many people as possible.

How has the move from Central Councils to Regions changed the way the Society is able to help people in need of assistance?

The move from Central Councils to Regions has allowed both the staff and membership to collaborate in a meaningful way, we are able to build on the successes achieved in the past and respond collaboratively to lessons learned along the way. Through this collaborative approach and learnings, we can better serve those we support within our community by changing and adapting our ways of working.

How has COVID-19 affected the South region? 

Our members and volunteers have changed the way they interact and support clients, from home visits and face-to-face interviews, to providing assistance over the phone and dropping of food hampers outside people’s homes. COVID-19 had a major impact on how we provided Bushfire Support, with members and staff unable to get out and attend community meetings and complete home visits. We were able to provide assistance through our online platform, phone calls and even through an intercom system!

Our Conferences are very resourceful and always find a safe way to support those in their community who are struggling. Members and volunteers learnt new ways to keep in touch with each other and keep the essence of their Conference alive, through Zoom meetings, virtual morning teas and conference calls. With staff working from home and regional offices closed for some period we found new ways to support our members and volunteers and ensure we all remained connected through these challenging times.

The changes that have occurred over the last six months have allowed all of us to reflect on the way we work and how we can still work as one strong team even though we are spread across the region. It has also provided us with the opportunity to look forward and consider how we can still engage with our local communities and support those in our communities beyond our traditional means, ensuring the Society remains embedded within our communities for years to come.