Robbie Gillies named Young Victorian of the Year
He’s only 27 but already, Robbie Gillies has founded four charities, studied four university degrees, volunteered overseas and in remote Australian communities – and now works as a doctor in The Alfred emergency department.
So it’s a fitting tribute that Robbie has just been named Young Victorian of the Year.
Possibly his most renowned enterprise is HoMie - a not-for-profit clothing store set up to provide new clothes, training and employment to young people experiencing homelessness.
Robbie and two friends started the clothing enterprise off the back of their hugely successful Homeless of Melbourne Facebook page in 2015.
“We wanted to find out more about homelessness in Melbourne so we walked around the city and chatted to people living rough,” Robbie said.
“We met some incredible people on the streets and their stories changed our attitudes about homelessness. We wanted to share their stories on social media with the hope that their messages could change other people’s perceptions too.”
Sharing people’s stories on their Facebook page created a groundswell of community support – people wanted to make a difference. From that initial push and the desire to do a little bit more for people experiencing homelessness, HoMie was born and has now become a thriving hub on Brunswick Street.
Along with studying a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, his Masters of Public Health, a Bachelor of Medical Science and a Diploma of Philosophy, Robbie has established:
- Yarra Swim Co: which has revived the historic ‘Race to Princes Bridge’ in a bid to create a cleaner, healthier, swimmable Yarra River
- Charity Tap: which allows bars and pubs to increase the price of a regular tap beer or food dish, donate the extra money to Charity Tap, and claim the money back as a tax-deduction
- Dream Larger: an Australian charity that aims to disrupt the cycle of poverty in low-income countries by supporting and encouraging Indigenous leadership.
When asked how he manages to find the time, Robbie said it’s not a sacrifice. His charity is always a positive experience for him, and his work has taught him new skills, built new relationships and introduced him to a host of inspiring, incredible people.
“Charity work doesn’t have to be hard. If you can find something that you enjoy doing, then when you get opportunities, just take them,” Robbie said.
“The best advice I’d give anyone wanting to get into charity work is to educate yourself. Find out what’s out there, find out if there are any gaps that need to be filled and find out what you can do without taking away from existing groups. Think about what change you’d like to see happen and start there.
“Volunteering is a great place to start.”