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Q&A with St John’s Crisis Centre General Manager, dog lover, mum and gardener, Dianne Kozik

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Dianne Kozik from St John’s Crisis Centre and find out about the exciting projects she has in the pipeline, her faith journey, what Advent means to her, her favourite childhood memory growing up in South Africa and what she would write on a billboard and why

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Dianne Kozik has been serving at St John’s Crisis Centre on the Gold Coast for nearly 15 years.

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

I started as a volunteer at St John’s in 2007 and became an employee in 2009, initially as an admin assistant.

What is your primary current ACSQ role and how does this role contribute to the Church’s mission?

St John’s primary mission is to assist people in crisis in a dignified and caring way, giving them ‘a hand up’, as per our motto. My current role as General Manager enables me to advocate for St John’s and our clients in the wider community, including applying for grants, presenting to community groups to encourage volunteering and donations and media liaison. My nearly 15 years at St John’s helps me guide staff and volunteers in achieving this mission through training and setting an example to follow.

What projects and activities are you currently working on?

I am excited about the forthcoming budget-friendly healthy cooking classes that we will be running in the New Year with the assistance of JW Marriott’s chefs. These classes will help us achieve the long-term goal of teaching people to cook healthily on a budget – a skill many do not have, regardless of their financial situation. We are also working on enlarging our community outreach programme to deliver healthcare and emergency assistance to people who cannot access the centre due to disability, living remotely, mental health problems, or DV status – we want to help as many people as possible.

What has been one of your highlights as General Manager of St John’s Crisis Centre?

When you have seen a person in their darkest moments turn their life around from addiction and begin the journey of healing their broken life, it fills me with joy. Below is an excerpt from a letter we received from a client:

“I am just writing this letter as a way of thanking you all for your support and encouragement. This has helped me gain confidence and reason for carrying on. I have been ill and in disrepair for a long while and had nowhere to turn. St John’s staff stood by me and helped me back on track, all my medic bills are being attended to and I seem to be well on the way to recovery. My housing needs have been met and I feel comfortable and established. I have a plan now that I can start moving on with my life.

I just want to say thank you to all that have helped me along the way,

With respect and thankfulness.”

Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journey?

Through the example of my parents and their open door policy to anyone in trouble, growing up I saw that the best way to follow His teachings was to do this in my own way. This eventually saw me volunteering at St John’s and then working my way up to General Manager. It has truly become my passion.

“My family and I back in South Africa in 1974. I am the youngest” (Dianne Kozik)

What is your favourite scripture and why?

Mark 10.45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This scripture fits the philosophy of St John’s Crisis Centre to help all in need in our community.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

I was inspired to start volunteering 14 years ago after hearing the founder of St John’s, Joan Hancock, speak at a school assembly. I had not realised that homelessness was such a huge issue on the Gold Coast and she inspired me to help. Without Joan Hancock I would not be doing what I am doing today, I am grateful that I attended that assembly and listened to her. I wonder, “Was that God’s plan?”

“Joan Hancock, the St John’s Crisis Centre founder, and me at our recent 40th anniversary celebration” (Dianne Kozik)

2022’s Diocesan theme is ‘Being Together: Embracing Joy’. What are some practical ways that we can celebrate the way differences help to make us whole and the importance of diversity in our unity.

This theme is integral to St John’s mission – people facing homelessness come from all walks of life. We need to embrace diversity and the differences in people so we are able to assist the people who come to us for help, who trust us to care for them. Giving unconditional love and acceptance to everyone you meet makes the world a better place.

What does Advent mean to you?

It is the busiest time of year for our centre. In Advent, we see so many more people coming to us for assistance as Christmas approaches, as they are unable to feed, clothe or provide presents for their children. A person’s financial situation should not inhibit their family’s enjoyment of Advent and Christmas. I appreciate the generosity of our wonderful volunteers that make it all possible. Advent to me shows the compassion and love that people in our community have for each other, especially through the giving of their time.

Our theme for the fourth week of Advent is ‘Being a welcoming people’ – what does this mean to you?

“Being a welcoming people” for me means treating everyone as you would like to be treated, with honesty, respect, kindness and open-mindedness.

What are the primary strengths of the Anglican Church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

One of the primary strengths of the Anglican Church is its acceptance of those who sometimes feel excluded from mainstream religions, such as people living with disability and LGBT people. These people often face crisis and homelessness and the congruency of the Anglican Church’s wider mission with our own helps us help them. St John’s would love to work with the wider Anglican Church community and share resources to help provide sustainable accommodation for those who need it in our communities. Proverbs 14.31 says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.”

What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?

One of the most selfless gestures I have heard about was when an intimate partner violence victim, whom we placed in safe accommodation with her children, told me that her adult son and his friends would stay up all night to ensure the father could not gain access to and hurt his family. While a sad story, it shows the resilience of people and how family and community support are integral to ensuring the safety of vulnerable people.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

My father told me “Dianne, you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to surround yourself with them.” I abide by that advice, and so my board is full of some of the most competent, kind and intelligent people I know. I could not do what I do without them.

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

I love to read. I am currently reading Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton). I also enjoy gardening, walking my dogs (they are my babies), and I get great satisfaction cooking produce I have grown in my garden.

“I feel most at peace when walking with my dogs. They are my non-judgemental, loving companions” (Dianne Kozik, pictured with Katara and Zuko)

If you could have a billboard with any text on it, what would it say and why?

“Be kind to each other” – because the world would be a better place overnight if we were all kinder.

What book have you given away most as a gift and why?

Adam Liaw ‘s Two Asian Kitchens because it is hands down one of the best cook books I have ever owned.

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Cuddle my dogs – they give me so much love. My children often say, “Mum, you love those dogs more than us.” I say teasingly in response, “Yes, so true, because they are always happy to see me and never answer back.”

“My family and me at The Ivy in Los Angeles, USA – a treat for my eldest daughter after she graduated high school” (Dianne Kozik)

Where do you do your best thinking?

I feel most at peace when walking with my dogs. They are my non-judgemental, loving companions.

What’s your best childhood memory?

Spending time with my dad back in South Africa, looking for mussels for him to open and eat, and then finding a warm rock pool to lie in and talk.

Editor’s note: If you would like to find out more about St John’s Crisis Centre visit their website or contact Dianne Kozik for a tour of the centre. If you would like to donate either a one-off amount or monthly, please visit the St John’s Crisis Centre website or contact Dianne Kozik on (07) 5531 6013 or via (please leave a message – phone sometimes aren’t answered when the St John’s team are helping people face to face).

If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for police or ambulance help. For a list of helplines and websites available to women, children and men, visit this page on the Queensland Government website.

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