Give a gift that gives back this festive season

An Eastern Barred Bandicoot

Clare Barry

Posted December 01, 2020

Look beyond the usual retail rounds for a present with purpose.

The events of 2020 have forced us to take a reality check on life as usual. Many of us simplified our lives – at least temporarily – and appreciated new value in community.

If this shines a new light on the festive season, you might be thinking now about buying meaningful gifts that give something back to the community. 

RACV supports several not-for-profit organisations that are offering great ideas for giving with a sense of purpose this year – from cookbooks and delicious hampers, to back-to-school donations for asylum seekers, and conservation-focused adopt a penguin and koala programs. So when drawing up your gift list this year, consider some of these ideas that also give back to the community.

Festive gifts with purpose

Bright side of the STREAT

STREAT works to prevent youth homelessness and disadvantage by offering a pathway from the street to a sustainable livelihood in hospitality, “one mouthful at a time”. And you can support their work in a delicious way by buying Christmas treats made in their Collingwood kitchen by young people who need a hand. STREAT offers traditional Christmas puddings priced from $20, gift-wrapped sets of conserves, or you could gift inspiration with STREAT’s new hard-cover cookbook – A Greater Hunger – filled with recipes and personal stories from its cafes, kitchens, bakery, roastery and classrooms. You can pick up from their Collingwood HQ, or orders worth $50 or $80 (depending on location) can be delivered for a fee.

Food for thought

Food is the most basic of human needs, and Victorian-based not-for-profit Eat Up Australia works to meet this need by delivering thousands of lunches a month to schools around Australia. It was set up in 2013 by Shepparton’s Lyndon Galea after he read a local newspaper article about children coming to school without anything to eat. Eat Up has extended its program to deliver emergency food boxes to vulnerable Victorians affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and its Christmas giving program encourages donations to support its work. A $50 donation will provide lunches for 50 schoolchildren, and $100 covers the cost of 10 food boxes for families in need. Downloadable ‘gift cards’ come with every donation made.

A taste of Australia

Give truly Australian craft, art, textiles and flavours while supporting Indigenous communities. The Tjanpi Weavers, representing more than 400 Anangu/Yarnangu women artists of the remote Central and Western Desert regions, offer one-of-a-kind sculptures, baskets, jewellery and other small woven objects, including a kit to teach yourself Indigenous weaving. Pick up a damper or wattle seed pavlova kit, pineapple or green tomato hot sauce, Indigenous herbal tea or spice sets and hampers from Torres Strait-owned Yarraville cafe Mabu Mabu. And from Babbarra Designs’ online shop, which employs and supports Aboriginal women in Arnhem Land, you can buy unique hand-printed textiles designed and sewn into dresses, tops, skirts and men’s ties in bold limited-edition local prints. You can also buy screen prints, lino prints and works on paper.

'Adopting' raises funds to protect Phillip Island’s native wildlife.
Pick up a one-of-a-kind gift while supporting Indigenous communities.

Head start for school

West Welcome Wagon works to support asylum seekers in Melbourne’s west with material aid donations and assistance. That help includes Back to School Packs so that children can start the school year with all their basic needs covered, including a backpack filled with stationery, a filled pencil case, lunchbox, drink bottle and dictionary. You can donate Back to School Packs for $40, which comes with a donation voucher to give to your gift recipient. Or you can donate a Basic Household Pack of cleaning equipment for $25, a Linen Pack with doona, pillow, towels and bed linen for $75, or a Food Hamper for $30.

Adopt a native animal 

For the animal lover in your life, give the gift of a furry or feathered friend – without the years-long commitment to a pet. ‘Adopt’ a penguin, koala, Australian fur seal, hooded plover, eastern barred bandicoot or short-tailed shearwater in their name, through Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Penguin Foundation. It raises funds to protect the island’s native wildlife and natural environment, and every adoption supports wildlife protection and funds research, habitat restoration and education programs. You’ll receive a digital adoption pack with a certificate thanking you for your adoption, and you can give your new friend a name too.

Head first

You can help ensure that young people facing mental health challenges won’t spend Christmas alone or go without food or a gift this year. Orygen youth mental-health support organisation runs a range of services for young people, including operating suburban headspace centres and running clinical services in schools and communities. A $35 donation will buy a Secret Santa Surprise for a young person using Orygen services who may not otherwise receive a gift, $50 will buy sports equipment for vulnerable young people away from school and their usual team sports, and $100 will buy a Christmas hamper of food and other essentials.

Extend a Lifeline

Lifeline is Australia’s largest crisis support and suicide prevention service, and receives more than a million calls for help each year from Australians in their darkest moments. Lifeline is there for anyone feeling overwhelmed from a tough year and what will be a difficult holiday season for many. If you or someone you know needs support, you can contact Lifeline 24 hours a day on 13 11 14. And if you can give a little to help this Christmas, you can make a one-off or ongoing donation.