Ken Marchingo AM

“We are honoured to have a leader of his calibre working with us as we address these important social welfare issues.”

Congratulations to Haven; Home, Safe Chief Executive Officer Ken Marchingo AM who was today appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Australia Day Honours list.

Ken received the honour for significant services to the community through social welfare programs and associations, particularly assistance for the homeless.

Chair of the Board of Directors Sue Clarke said this prestigious recognition was a wonderful tribute to Ken’s outstanding work in the homelessness services sector and his enormous contribution over many years to the growth of community housing here in Victoria, Australia and overseas.

“As a passionate advocate, Ken has devoted his career to addressing the issues of poverty, inequality and discrimination and, in particular, speaking out on behalf of those most vulnerable,” Sue said.

“We are honoured to have a leader of his calibre working with us as we address these important social welfare issues.”

Sue said that the appointment to the Order of Australia reflected the high esteem in which Ken was held in the community of Bendigo, by his peers, Government, the business sector, and the national and international community housing sector, many of whom have variously described him as a ‘thought leader’, ‘change agent’, ‘expert practitioner’, ‘innovative’, and a ‘selfless individual with a strong social conscience’.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to congratulate Ken and his family on this special day.”

In accepting the appointment to the Order of Australia, Ken said “he was both thrilled and surprised”.

“I am truly humbled to receive this honour for my work which has been a great source of passion for me throughout my life,” Ken said.

“It’s been a privilege for me to spend my career tackling tough social issues such as homelessness and housing affordability and I look forward to continuing to make important strides in these areas for many years to come.”


Kenneth (Ken) Marchingo was born at the Catholic Single Women’s Home in Carlton in 1960.  He was adopted from Broadmeadows and grew up in Bendigo.

At the age of six, Ken was diagnosed with holes in his heart.  His father, unaware at the time that the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) was a public hospital, undertook a fundraising campaign for Ken’s heart operation.  On arrival at the hospital, Ken’s father was told that there would be no charge, but that the hospital would gladly accept the funds as a donation. This event marked the beginning of Ken’s long association with the RCH through philanthropy and fundraising activities, and he was appointed an Honorary Life Governor for his services at the age of 15.

After the heart operation, Ken’s family was told that he would not be a very robust child.  This did not stop Ken.  He tackled life with great vigour and was actively involved in the scouting movement and martial arts, and subsequently passed rigorous medical tests and ‘beat the system’ to win an Army Scholarship to the Royal Military College.

At 17, Ken broke his back and spent six months in hospital and then underwent spinal operations. Doctors said he would never work and he was advised to apply for an invalid pension. Ken did not accept that this was his fate and through sheer determination and steely resolve he worked his way back to enjoy a full and energetic life.

These traits have been the hallmark of Ken’s approach to life.  His tenacity and unwillingness to accept that “this is how it has to be” have driven him to tackle homelessness and the plight of those less fortunate with great energy, passion and vision throughout his adult working life.

In 1994, after 10 years working with the Department of Housing, Ken took up the position as the Executive officer/ Housing officer at the Bendigo Urban Emergency Accommodation Resource Centre (BUEARC), which is now called Haven; Home, Safe.  At the time, BUEARC was in a parlous state and Ken was its only fully funded employee.

“I was the housing worker. I did the intake work, wrote the emergency relief cheques, picked people up, took them out to houses and showed them how things worked and then raced back to the office to see the next person,” Ken recalls.

“Two or three times a night I’d get out of bed to pick people up from the police station or the emergency room at the hospital and then drive around endlessly trying to find a motel that was open. It was such a well-known institution by then. Where do you send poor people? You sent them to BUEARC – that was the ethos I really tried to hang on to. We had housing and we had cash. When everyone else had food parcels and was offering tea and sympathy, we’d write a cheque.”

Twenty-four years on, Haven; Home, Safe has flourished under Ken’s astute stewardship with annual revenue of more than $30M, a balance sheet of assets over $300M, and employs more than 150 staff across five main offices. More importantly, housing thousands of people and providing support and assistance to more than 10,000 people a year with its unique vertically integrated housing and homelessness services.

Six years ago, Ken’s contribution to the community housing sector was acknowledged by his peers and colleagues with an auspicious Lifetime Achievement Award from PowerHousing Australia (PHA), the national industry advocacy group he initiated in 2004.

That same year, Ken was appointed Chair of the International Housing Partnership (IHP), a collaborative of more than 175 high-capacity non-profits from Australia, Canada, the UK and US that collectively house more than 2.5 million people worldwide.

In 2013, as Chair, he hosted the annual IHP Leadership Exchange in Sydney, the largest gathering of International Housing Association CEOs ever assembled in Australia.

In recent years, Ken has been invited to speak at international conferences, including the International Housing Summit in Rotterdam and ONPHA, the largest conference in the sector in North America. He has twice facilitated a two-day leadership seminar for the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Founders Program in Canada designed to enhance the strategic and organisational leadership skills of the CEO participants.

Officially acclaimed a ‘Local Hero’ in his home town of Bendigo, Ken is also the proud patron and a founder of the Bendigo and Central Victoria Community Foundation, a former long-term director of Bendigo Health, and a distinguished White Ribbon Ambassador, which aims to eliminate violence against women and children.


This media release courtesy of Haven: Home Safe. For more articles by this author click here.