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GFS Perth

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The Revd Alison Gilchrist, Chief Executive Officer

One of the intriguing parts of my role at GFS Perth is the reaction of people when I tell them who I work for. Some just look puzzled because they have no idea what something called the Girls’ Friend Society might be or do, and others exclaim, ‘Oh my gosh is that still going, I thought that shut down many, many years ago. I recall it from my childhood, but thought it was long gone!’ Still others take great delight in telling me that they used to be part of GFS, here, somewhere else in Australia, or even overseas, or that someone in their family was a member in the past.

As well as being intriguing it’s also a little bit sad that anyone assumes this is a ‘has-been’ organisation, whereas in fact GFS Perth has been developing, and is moving on into a bright new future.

In recent times we have:

  • Moved to a new site in West Swan, one of the fastest urban growth corridors in Australia, offering plenty of opportunity to engage a wide audience, including young families. The site has been shaped with the tenets of the Fifth Mark of Mission of the Anglican Communion in mind, ie to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. Progress is being made for the staged development of the site and we are hoping that the first stage will be fully completed in 2024.
  • A new mission statement: GFS Perth creates places and spaces where all people are welcomed, belong and grow, friendships flourish, and kindness and generosity thrive. This is backed by our tagline ‘GFS Perth: catalysing a #friendshiprevolution’.
  • A new logo with a more current feel and carrying forward the traditional blue cross in the centre.
  • A measured, though confident, strategic plan.
  • A revamped website.
  • A vibrant women’s group with a twist. Wednesday Women has been running for almost two years now with some 75 women being involved at various times. ‘Wednesday Women want to be famous for strong supportive friendships, heart-warming fun, and life changing feats’. The twist is obviously the final component, which was included because we know that when women pull together for a cause not only are they formidable, but it solidifies friendships.
  • An innovative intergeneration initiative with two components, also running for coming up to two years. Under our Engaging Generations umbrella we deliver both Sunflower Club (soon to be clubs!) and Letter Link Up. Engaging Generations is a social mentoring initiative via which people of all ages interact in various ways, to build a stronger and more connected community, through mutual sharing, learning and support. Its objectives are to reduce isolation and increase social connectivity, contribute to greater community wellbeing and inclusion, and help people develop community life-skills, so as to generate positive about, and develop resilience in, the community.
  • A membership that has nearly tripled in size and is growing.
  • New partnerships with organisations, both locally and further afield.
  • A vastly extended social media presence with two of our weekly outputs - Monday Musings and Friendship Friday’s - reaching more than 300,000 people over this past year. In 2023 Friendship Fridays moved to on to become an IRL (in real life) experience through our partnership with St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Guildford.
  • A fresh connectional initiative called Sociable Saturdays. Research informed us that many young people shy away from making regular commitments, and so this part of our delivery offers irregular ‘catch ups,’ advertised through a Facebook page. So far, we have had a games event in a local park, a walk along the Swan River in Woodbridge and a coffee catch-up in a local café, that also hosts music events and a church. We are hoping to increase the frequency of these events in 2024.

All backed by a very hands-on board and a small, but expanding team, of staff and volunteers.

The good news is that GFS Perth is alive and kicking and looking hopefully towards the future.

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It’s our hope that many of you will take the opportunity to connect, or reconnect, with us, which is done fairly easily through our social media pages or our website, also via email - or text/phone 0455 507 039, so that together we can catalyse the #friendshiprevolution so needed in today’s world.

Stay safe and hopeful, Alison

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