Over 20 years ago, I was walking down Fitzroy Street, St Kilda and saw a man asleep on a park bench. The night was particularly cold, with a biting chill in the air, and I had the impetus to take the coat off my back and provide a layer of warmth to someone in need.

I started thinking about all of the other people in need of warmth and had a parallel thought about all of the preloved coats hanging in my home and the homes of my friends. I garnered a small group of like minded, and enthusiastic people to start a Winter coat collection drive called OFF YOUR BACK. I simply wanted to take the coat off my back and put it onto the back of someone in need. The idea was that no money would ever change hands, it would be pure & simple with no collateral & only an email directing people to collect & take their pre-loved coats to be re-distributed to the staggering number of homeless in Victoria.

I have been extremely lucky with how well OFF YOUR BACK has resonated throughout our Victorian community with many businesses providing drop off locations. The courier collection and redistribution is provided at no charge by Capital Transport.

There is no committee or sponsor-led budgets. A viral email goes out and people respond by leaving their coats at one of the OFF YOUR BACK drop off spots and they love knowing their much-loved items are going on to another life with people who really need them. The drive now includes school collections, company collections and individual volunteers who collect, drive to collection spots and help with the running of the program annually.

I am extremely proud to say that we have now distributed around 150,000 coats to those in need without spending a cent.

Toni x