Fabricating Personal Stories and Finding Treasures in Vinnies Rozelle

So much of history begin with the ones belonging to our families. One of my favourite stories of my mum’s childhood growing up as a sweet immigrant child in Leichhardt would be of her and her siblings taking trips to the Vinnies there to get clothes (for free in the 80s!). I knew then when Mike spoke about our opportunities as budding historians, I was eager to work with a community organisation that had given my family so much so I could be just as fortunate too.

My project takes us to the beautiful Darling Street which runs through Rozelle through to Balmain and situated at number 638 is Vinnies Rozelle, the community organisation that I have been volunteering with for my project. Vinnies Rozelle has an impressive collection of purely donated goods ranging from clothes, books (the cookbooks are particularly extensive and enjoyable to browse!), furniture and their iconic ‘bric-a-brac’ section which primarily consists of equipment for the kitchen and other decorative homewares. As an organisation, Vinnies operates on the work of paid employees, volunteers, and the ever-generous donations from the local community. Rozelle is one of the bigger stores in the Inner West suburbs so some of the stock that ends up being on shelves for months will find their way to other Vinnies in surrounding areas such as the ones in the City. There are colour-coded tags placed on everything that is to be sold that indicate which month items were placed on shelves (October is pink!) and when it is appropriate for them to go to another store to be hopefully sold.

Outside of Vinnies Rozelle.

In discussion with Peter, the Rozelle Store Manager, in asking him what something that people might not know about Vinnies as an organisation, Peter told me that profits from the sale of their goods go towards assisting people who experience hardship and thinking about the legacy that Vinnies has had in helping my mum and her family when she first migrated here, these values still ring true. With 650 Vinnies stores across Australia, their support of the local community continues to grow each year.  

My project has shifted in its many forms (started with a fashion show idea!) but after my first volunteering shift, I am considering doing a podcast about the history of Vinnies and the sorts of stories that emerge (like the one belonging to my mum) about the families and people they have assisted and the sort of work that occurs there now. This will hopefully give Vinnies more of a platform to continue their amazing work in supporting people who need it.

On the topic of work, there are piles of clothes, books and furniture that will always need sorting so if you have some free time, I couldn’t recommend popping down to your local Vinnies (and if you’re a Rozelle resident like myself, Peter would be more than happy to have you help out!) to spend a few hours sorting through an unknown history of second hand goods that could find a new home thanks to your help.