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Supporter profile: Robert and Irene Gilbert

Sacred Heart Mission supporters Robert and Irene Gilbert

12 November 2019

“We are pleased to support the lasting and inter-generational changes Sacred Heart Mission is making to better our society, which is a way of living out our faith and our values.”

When Robert and Irene Gilbert retired from running their family business, they felt motivated to commit a portion of their good fortune to help people experiencing disadvantage.

In particular, Robert and Irene wanted to find an effective way to help people sleeping rough on Melbourne’s streets:

“We had heard first-hand stories of Sacred Heart Mission supporting homeless community members from our then Parish Priest Father Terry Kean,” Robert says.

“We believe that behind homelessness lies a range of other unmet, basic human needs that require creative ideas to be solved, and we wanted to support an innovative organisation that made informed and accountable decisions to find constructive ways to help people.”

Understanding the important role philanthropy plays in the future of the homelessness sector, Robert and Irene believe organisations such as Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) have the ability to make real and lasting changes in people’s lives.

The Gilberts have remained loyal to SHM since their first gift at Christmas in 2011 - they generously donate twice a year and attend our annual events, including the Dine with Heart Gala Dinner and the Heart of St Kilda Concert.

The pair also gifted over four years to the One Heart, One Home Capital Campaign, which has been essential to raise the funding for Project 101 on Grey Street providing care for our aging community who have experienced homelessness.

The Gilbert’s visionary support of SHM did not stop there. Soon after its inception, Robert and Irene watched the Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI) program deliver impressive results and were quick to recognise the role philanthropy could play in achieving the SHM vision to scale the program.

Robert and Irene consider the introduction of J2SI has been one of the most important changes they’ve seen at SHM, and in the homelessness sector, so far.

“The J2SI program looks at the whole person and supports them to turn their lives around. It starts with giving them somewhere safe and affordable to live and goes on to help them to improve their overall health and wellbeing with intensive long-term case management over a three year period,” Robert says.

“With its holistic, practical and accountable approach, we were impressed by the way the program sets out to treat causes, not just symptoms, of disadvantage. It’s a great program and we’re keen to see it move into the next phase, that’s why we took a leap of faith in 2018 and became one of the Mission’s first guarantors.”

Guarantees are an effective way to deliver low-cost funding, generating savings for the community, and allow for innovative programs to be delivered which create social impact at scale.

The Gilberts have provided a substantial guarantee for J2SI Phase Three, which has helped secure government support and facilitate low-cost funding to support J2SI for a further five years.

Robert and Irene’s support as guarantors not only helped SHM secure its position as a sector innovator and leading niche specialist, but it paved the way for the J2SI legacy to spread throughout Australia.

Reflecting on their eight years supporting SHM, the Gilberts say they are particularly fond of the relationships they’ve built with the people who work at the Mission.

“Our relationships with SHM staff have grown strong over time and we very much appreciate that, as well as the excellent communication we have with them,” Robert says.

Irene agrees, adding; “Our relationships at SHM have been important to us because we are not just giving to an organisation, we’re giving to the people who do the work, and the people who need support. We love hearing about how people are able to improve their lives through SHM.”

“We are pleased to support the lasting and inter-generational changes SHM is facilitating,” Robert says. “Supporting SHM is a way of living out our faith and our values.

“As a society, we need to keep working together towards eliminating homelessness.”

Join Irene and Robert and our other Mission supporters and make a donation this Christmas. Every $1 you give will help us change lives:

Donate to our Christmas Appeal

Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.


Sacred Heart Mission believes that the diversity of abilities, genders, sexualities, relationship identities, bodies and cultures in our community enriches us all and should be celebrated. Everyone is welcome at our table.