Dignity on steroids

Dear Inner Circle,

It’s Fashion Week! Almost like clockwork, we received a generous donation of ham, cheese, and rocket baguettes from the caterers of the official Sydney Fashion Week event. When will they ever learn that all they really needed to provide was the leaves, and hold the rest? Everyone knows models only eat lettuce! That said, these delicious sandwiches were eagerly wolfed down by all of our model citizens in preparation for our own alternative Fashion @ The Wayside event. t was a raucous celebration of incredible clothing and flair, styled by our Op Shop staff, and modelled by the Wayside community. There were even dogs on the catwalk at one point. One of the models, who has been sleeping rough for a few years, grabbed my arm and said, “I needed today, something to feel proud about. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this.” Rumour has it that there was a brief cameo from a model known as Pastor Prime. Usually, she doesn’t get out of bed for anything under $10,000, but she appeared free for us (free from balance and coordination at least). 

This is the kind of joy and connection that Wayside is all about. Last week, a friend and I were having lunch in the Community Cafe when a beautiful moment unfolded. She wrote a lovely recollection of this “pure Wayside bliss” which I wanted to share with you: 

“An Aboriginal elder, with the capacity to give the world’s most effective hugs, not only joined our conversation but took over. She challenged Jon’s rationality and emphasised her need for her mob to unite and be in charge. So, over two-dollar hamburgers, perfectly grilled onsite by the Wayside burger experts, I watched in delight as Jon lost every foot he could stand on, to her very deliberate and convincing arguments. With humility and kindness, Jon explained that this is why he loves lunch at the Wayside. In ceding power to the powerless and watching them have one over him, it showed me compassion in action. Dignity on steroids. It’s Love over Hate.” 

This isn’t about one person’s willingness to listen; this is just who Wayside is. People feel ownership over this place. It’s their home, so it’s only natural that they get a say in how it’s run. We listen when people talk, we take their concerns seriously, we value their lived experience, and allow it to shape the decisions we make. We share power, and by doing that we offer people dignity. This is in our DNA; it’s just how we work. 

I saw this the other day when Byron, a regular at Wayside, started clearing the plates at the Bondi Community Lunch. That act of service is something you do when you feel like this is your place, your home. You wouldn’t do that if you just felt like a guest.  

Your continued support and engagement makes this possible. Together we create a community where there is no ‘us and them’, and everyone has the chance to be heard. 

Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle, 


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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