It’s been 75 years since the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus arrived in Melbourne at the invitation of then-Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Otherwise known as the Cabrini Sisters (after their founder St Frances Xavier Cabrini), their mission was to support the growing number of Italian migrants who were arriving in the country at the time. Those missionary efforts helped alleviate the needs of many struggling families, a legacy that continues today through the work of Cabrini Outreach.

On Wednesday 23 August, local staff and supporters of Cabrini Outreach, a service of Cabrini Health Australia, gathered for the official blessing of the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub in Northcote. The hub provides access to a range of primary healthcare and mental health services for people seeking asylum and for newly arrived refugees.

Now in its seventh year, the hub services as many as 400 clients at a time and had outgrown its former premises in Brunswick.

In blessing the new premises, Bishop Anthony Ireland (Vicar for Health, Aged and Disability Care) praised the hub’s work and recounted how Mother Cabrini herself ‘went to the ports seeking to care for the migrant people who landed in a new country in need of medical care’.

It is this generosity of spirit and Christ-like compassion that lies at the heart of Cabrini’s work, Bishop Ireland reflected. ‘Cabrini Outreach strives to make a difference in the lives of individuals and families, and in the wider community by inviting believer and non-believer alike to find meaning and value in their lives and reach their full potential as compassionate, contributing, life-giving members of society who are highly skilled, informed, tolerant, open and just.’

‘Cabrini is not just one social service among many. It is a place which heeds the Gospel of the Lord and takes to heart the injunction of Jesus himself, “As you did it to the one of these least of my brothers or sisters, you did it to me.”’

The blessing was also attended by local MP Kat Theophanous, who welcomed the new occupants to Westbourne Grove, Northcote. ‘At a moving blessing ceremony, we spoke about the barriers still faced by too many people in getting the care they need. Cabrini is working to change that,’ she shared.

Chief of Mental Health and Cabrini Outreach Sharon Sherwood said the move to Northcote would open the way to expand the service to even more of those in need. ‘Having a facility that’s big enough for our clients and staff has been transformational,’ she said. ‘This gives our clients more privacy, in a beautiful building that provides a safe, relaxing environment.’

In addition to healthcare and specialist mental health services, the hub also offers a healthcare waiver program, which waives the cost of essential prescription medicine, optical, hearing and medical aids for eligible clients. Last year the program covered the cost of over $100,000 for those in need.

‘We run on the principle that healthcare is a basic fundamental human right, and we’re here to ensure everyone receives it.’

The relocation of the hub was made possible by the Archbishop’s Charitable Fund and The Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust (as managed by Equity Trustees).