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Leadership & Management

Pharma and medtech leaders unite in chilling challenge for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens

Health Industry Hub | June 30, 2023 |

Leadership & Management: Pfizer Australia & New Zealand Managing Director, Anne Harris, made a remarkable gesture of solidarity by joining forces with other influential business leaders to raise both awareness and funds for the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

On June 22, 2023, Ms Harris, accompanied by Nirelle Tolstoshev, Managing Director of Organon Australia & New Zealand, and Marcus Wyborn, Executive Chair of Smartways Logistics, took part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout as part of a team named ‘Health for Homeless,’ representing the Life Sciences sector.

Rebecca Cortiula, Senior Managing Director Australasia at Varian Medical Systems Australasia, also joined the many inspiring leaders committed to making a difference. She shared, “I’m taking part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout to raise funds for people facing homelessness. One night isn’t a lot, but I hope this small gesture can make a difference.”

With over 1,500 business leaders from various sectors, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout captivated the nation’s attention in its 18th year. Braving one of the coldest nights of the year at Sydney’s White Bay Cruise Terminal in Rozelle, the ‘Health for Homeless’ team slept rough, armed only with cardboard sheets and sleeping bags. This symbolic act granted them a brief glimpse into the harsh reality faced by more than 122,000 Australians grappling with homelessness.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said “Every year the Vinnies CEO Sleepout provides a glimpse into the unimaginable challenges that people living in homelessness face on a day-to-day basis. We face a significant challenge, but we have made delivering a comprehensive housing plan a core pillar of our agenda. I want to pay tribute to organisations like Vinnies who are at the pointy end of the housing crisis and thank them for their longstanding work advocating for and supporting people in dire need.”

Ms Harris emphasised Pfizer’s dedication to community care, stating, “The Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout is an event Pfizer supports as part of its commitment to community care. The soaring cost of living and lack of affordable housing is driving a growing number of people to seek assistance from Vinnies in their time of need. Supporting the CEO Sleepout is a meaningful step in fostering a more inclusive society.”

Nirelle Tolstoshev, echoing this sentiment, stressed the significance of collaboration and corporate social responsibility. She said “The biopharma industry gives back to the communities we serve in meaningful ways, and our collaboration as a part of the CEO Sleepout is another example of how we work together to make a positive impact in the lives of some of our country’s most vulnerable people. This small team will grow in 2024 – industry leaders be ready for our recruitment campaign!”

As part of their participation, the Life Sciences team engaged in the ‘Walk a Mile’ activity, which simulated the challenges faced by homeless individuals. They were tasked with navigating the complex process of accessing housing, medical services, and support for mental health and addiction. This exercise shed light on the daunting reality that individuals without a permanent address face when attempting to access crucial services.

Ms Harris highlighted the vital role played by Vinnies, explaining, “It’s a confronting fact that if you do not have a permanent address, you cannot access many of these services. The work of Vinnies is critical and needs ongoing funding – they support the housing and health needs of people at risk of or facing homelessness with immediate accommodation services and access to Vinnies’ health clinic while helping homeless people navigate access to broader health services, long-term housing, and many other supports.”

Ms Tolstoshev added “Organon is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of women, and I’m committed to advocating on behalf of women, and highlighting issues that disproportionately impact women. Homelessness rates in Australia are much higher than most people realise, and females are the fastest growing number of homeless, accounting for 81.7% of the increase in people experiencing homelessness in 2021.”

Homelessness in Australia is a multifaceted issue with numerous contributing factors, including a shortage of affordable housing, domestic violence, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, substance abuse, financial crises, release from state care or prison, and social exclusion. This pervasive problem affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds, with a disproportionate impact on First Nations people and recent migrants.

The Vinnies CEO Sleepout serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us that collective action can drive real change. As the fundraising campaign continues until July 31, individuals and organisations are encouraged to visit the Vinnies CEO Sleepout website and make a donation.

In reimagining healthcare across the entire patient journey, Health Industry HubTM is the only one-stop-hub bringing the diversity of Pharma, MedTech, Diagnostics & Biotech sectors together to inspire meaningful change.

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