Claudia Karvan. The Wonderful Waysider

Claudia Karvan by Toby Burrows for The National Treasures Series : Zoë Porter

I was punching the air when Claudia Karvan agreed to be the very first National Treasure to be interviewed and photographed for this series but I have to admit that I felt a little stumped and paralysed with pen when it came to preparing the questions. This ain’t her first rodeo after all, but it is mine…..!

As a highly acclaimed actor and director, she’s been around the block in terms of blood, sweat and tears shed to earn the nation’s consistent adoration and respect and so my research unearthed a mountain of previous interviews.

Spending hours reading through these was a little daunting to say the least. How could this interview stand apart from the rest? I deliberated endlessly…I called her to discuss “No worries! I would like to focus on The Wayside Chapel mostly if that’s ok?” Perfect I said.

As an actor, writer and producer Karvan’s reputation is cemented in concrete with accolade after accolade accompanied by a  secure foothold in The Australian Film Walk Of Fame. She comfortably balances at the pointy end of dignified, gritty and convincing drama and I have to admit that I felt a little intimidated and overwhelmed by it all.

The Secret Life of Us captivated me soon after I landed in Australia and it largely catapulted Karvan (who played Alex, one of the lead roles) into the familiar notoriety that commercial tv brings. It became my weekly screen fix whilst I familiarised myself with 3rd-degree sunburn, the fine art of fixing frangipani flowers in my hair after 5 beers and the assurance that caramel coloured spiders the size of a prize fighter’s boxing gloves wouldn’t suffocate me in my sleep.

Karvan’s back catalogue is vast and I’ve yet to work my way through all of it but her performances as Frankie, the arty hot mess in Love My Way, naive and prim 70’s wife Judy in Puberty Blues and most recently Caroline, the scorned and devoted  mother in The Time of Our Lives are all big personal favourites to date. Her scenes as Caroline, particularly in divorce mediation counselling, were nothing short of outstanding.

We decide to focus this piece on her ambassador status at The Wayside Chapel, complemented with a photo shoot at The Wayside Chapel Op Shop. Claudia has proudly and actively endorsed this vital inner-city charity since 2006 and she is a lifelong devotee of vintage fashion.

Claudia’s own unique style is effortless with sprinkles of bohemian cool and an understated notion of sexy. Her modest quips and deflections when pressed to divulge her achievements and discuss her career highlights are commonplace in our morning together, she is humble and eager to pass the ball. ‘I like your hair’ she says when I ask how many awards she’s received and moments later ‘Your house is lovely’.

Karvan is delicate of frame, with a feature-fine beauty. She has no hesitation in laughing at herself and she adores goofy humour. She is a fellow astrological bull and she too has a German Shepard. Hers is jet black, mine is bonkers, but I couldn’t be more chuffed with these minor coincidental connections.

She’s the type of chick that I want my daughters to aspire to. She’s like a tangible and attainable modern-day Boadicea of talented hip and hard-working cool (but without the tyranny and bad teeth).

Later that day, writing up my notes, a quote from an article I’d recently read celebrating the life of Farrah Fawcett.  A fellow female actor said – ‘Farrah was kind to women, really kind, she not only supported her causes but womanhood too and that’s rare in a woman like her’. After my time with Claudia this seems fitting to mention because she wholeheartedly endorses what she believes in and she is kind. Really kind. I like that.

Claudia Karvan for The National Treasures Series

Location – The Wayside Chapel Op Shop, Potts Point, Sydney.

Photographer Toby Burrows.

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Which projects have been career highlights for you and why? I love them all to be honest. Some more than others – High Tide because I was young, 14 and away from home and working with gargantuan talents such as Gillian Armstrong, Judy Davis and Laura Jones, the scriptwriter. I often think of those women. They are still mentors.

Love My Way-because it was my first foray in producing and creating my own work with John Edwards and Jacquelin Perske. Its surprisingly struck a chord with a broad audience and still gets a look in today which is unusual for TV. It usually has a short lifespan.

Secret Life of Us-I still love this one because I felt like I joined a family. I work with Amanda Higgs and Judi McCrossin (the writer and producers) on Time of Our Lives now (another favourite show). I still see the wonderful Deb Mailman. Being gainfully employed also allowed me to get pregnant and start my own family so I credit Secret Life of Us with that great life development!

In terms of iconic style what is your favourite era and who do you admire the most? I love the 30’s and 40’s for that classic, masculine influenced women’s fashion. I love the style of Katherine Hepburn. Love the pants and the flat shoes. No nonsense and so cool.

If you could play any iconic or historic role, who would it be and who would you love to work with? I can’t think of any historic role, to be honest. I’d love to work with anyone who is passionate about writing and telling a story that’s unique and personal and entertaining. We have some brilliant Australian directors. I’d love to work with Cate Shortland again. And with Wayne Blair who directed The Sapphires. Also with David Michod who directed Animal Kingdom. I love telling Australian stories and working in our country so playing an extraordinary Australian woman would be a fantastic challenge. Julia Gillard? Gina Rinehart? Germaine Greer?

Charity Work at The Wayside Chapel I’ve been involved with the Wayside Chapel since 2006. I got involved because of Graham Long the CEO of Wayside. His patient, non-judgmental philosophies are life-affirming and create a lot of joy and opportunity for people at their lowest ebb. His Christmas Day where Wayside closes off the street and feed over 1000 people is what Christmas Day is all about.

Claudia Karvan by Toby Burrows for The National Treasures Series : Zoë Porter

Thank You

Claudia Karvan

The Wayside Chapel Op Shop Manager – Gabe Bilicka

The Wayside Op Shop Staff

  Marketing and Communications Manager The Wayside Chapel – Laura Watts.

 Photographer – Toby Burrows

Photographic Assistant – Klint Collier 

Makeup Artist – Alexa Clayton-Jones

Wardrobe Stylist – Patrick Tyrrell 

Claudia with Stylist Pat Tyrell for The National Treasures Series : Zoë Porter

The Wayside Chapel

The Wayside Chapel has provided unconditional love, care and support to people on and around the streets of Kings Cross since 1964. Today, under the banner of love over hate, The Wayside Chapel strives to create a community where there is no  ‘us and them’ by breaking down the barriers of judgment and providing a safe place where people from all walks of life are welcome just to ‘be’.

The Wayside Chapel invites people out of singular, individual life into the risky and healing place of community.  We seek to ‘meet’ people rather than ‘fix’ people and offer a ‘hand up’ instead of a ‘hand out’. People marginalised by issues relating to homelessness, mental health and alcohol and other drugs can turn to Wayside for compassion, tolerance and support. Our community services centre, youth space and outreach service, mental health program, community cafe and our Aboriginal project are all designed to ensure the most marginalised members of our community have access to essential health, welfare, social and recreational services. When the people we support show sparks of life and signs that they long to be better, we engage and equip them to be healthy and active community members.

Our goal of making a community is also our method. The Wayside Chapel serves not only the thousands of marginalised people who have nowhere else to turn but also the thousands who want to make the world a better place and lend a hand to another fellow human being. Together, we form a flourishing community where ‘us and them’ simply becomes ‘us’.


Each year, thousands of people visit Wayside for assistance in gaining equitable access to essential health, welfare and related services. In the past year alone, 74,500 instances of support were provided to people seeking assistance or just stopping by for a chat and a quiet place where they can find company and acceptance.

Wayside provided, amongst other services, 8089 community meals, 7572 changes of clothing, 8475 1:1 support sessions, 2453 referrals to services and agencies and 653 activities for young people and visitors with long-term mental health issues. Almost 90,000 visits were made to our cafe for low-cost meals, snacks and drinks.

Community Service Centre 

The Community Service Centre (CSC) is the first point of contact for people visiting The Wayside Chapel. Our door is open seven days a week for all of our neighbours, regardless of their circumstance. The CSC provides the little things that many of us take for granted and yet are an essential part of life: a shower with a fresh towel, a clean pair of underwear, or assistance finding a bed for the night. The CSC also helps those at their lowest ebb transition through to better health and a better life through crisis counselling, mental health risk assessments and referrals to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Acting as a hub for other services, the CSC offers outreach clinics for legal aid, Centrelink, mental health and housing support.

Wayside Youth

Supporting young people at risk is one of the most important facets of Wayside’s work.  From Monday to Sunday, Wayside Youth offers the only youth-specific drop-in space for young people in Kings Cross, and provides laundry and shower facilities, breakfast and dinner programs, activities, outings, transitional casework support, and a safe place to spend the day.  Regular outreach street walks aim to connect with young people on the street to ensure early intervention and immediate crisis referrals.  Youth workers visit locations frequented by young people in the Kings Cross area on three late nights and two afternoons each week.

Day to Day Living 

The Day to Day Living program provides people living with a long-term mental health issue with a safe and supportive environment.  Through a range of educational, social and recreational group-based activities, participants are encouraged to seek out their vocation, discern what ‘recovery’ means for them and focus on making their future dreams a reality by creating opportunities for themselves.  Activities in Day to Day Living reflect the interests of our community members. These currently include health and wellbeing, music, visual arts and living skills such as cooking, computing, and writing, amongst other activities.

Aboriginal Project 

The Aboriginal Project brings the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community together in such a way that is culturally sensitive, respectful and appropriate.  Regular activities include a weekly community lunch, a living skills program and an arts program.  There are also special activities, such as visits to culturally significant sites, where visitors can re-engage with traditions that are in danger of being lost.  The project supports Aboriginal visitors through various pathways including education, employment, referral out of disadvantaged areas, counselling, advocacy and outreach.  The project has a dedicated space which allows the Aboriginal community at Wayside – which makes up around 20% of all visitors – to feel empowered and creates a sense of belonging in the Kings Cross area.

Wayside Café 

The Wayside Café serves low-cost meals and beverages in a warm, relaxed and friendly environment.  People from all walks of life come together at the busy and lively venue for a meal, a coffee or some reflection.  Socio-economic barriers are broken down in the Cafe, and you can sometimes find a local politician and a local homeless man having lunch together like they’re old friends.  While the Café’s meals are not free, they are affordable, nutritious and prepared onsite daily. We believe that charging a small fee for food gives dignity to the exchange. The Café provides pathways into employment. When ready, visitors can become volunteers in the Café and train in cooking, food preparation and coffee-making. The Café is open 9am to 7.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday.

Op Shop 

If you’ve an eye for bargains and a taste for vintage, you can’t go past Wayside’s Op Shop. Packed to the rafters with clothes, jewellery and kitsch delight the Op Shop is a fashionista favourite. Dinnigan, Gucci and Ksubi – donated by some of Wayside’s very well dressed supporters – nestle amongst more humble brand names and handmade items.  Shoppers have the added benefit of knowing that every dollar spent goes straight back into our projects and services.  We accept donations of clothes, jewellery and homewares only. The Op Shop is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm Saturday.

Community Development 

The Wayside Chapel creates opportunities for people in the community to connect, share and celebrate together. The events are as diverse as the people who come through our doors.  Whether it is an art exhibition to display works by people living with a mental illness or being part of the ever-popular Mardi Gras procession, the events at Wayside provide a unique sense of togetherness for the community.

Employment Pathways Project

When the people we support want to get back on their feet, the first thing they want to do is work. The Employment Pathways Project operates across all program areas to help marginalised people to move towards employment-related goals. Our role is to match people who are ready to move into the mainstream workforce with organisations that want to make a difference in the community. We then provide intensive support for both to ensure the best possible result.

The Chapel

There are few more radical examples of community than are encountered in our church gatherings on Sunday morning. Many of the barriers that divide people are dissolved. It’s not uncommon for a sex worker or someone struggling with addiction to be sitting next to an ex attorney general of Australia. We remind each other that all of religion is satisfied when love is lived in community. Sunday service is held at The Wayside Chapel each week at 10am.



Volunteers are the lifeblood of Wayside. Without the dedication and support from our 500 active volunteers, who fill 235 shifts each week, we simply wouldn’t be able to open our doors. Our volunteers tell us that they get more out of volunteering at Wayside than the visitors they serve  and in a sector which sees a high turn-over, we are unique in having long-serving volunteers, with quite a few providing us with more than 20 years of service. Volunteer roles include everything from serving food in the café to providing one-on-one support in literacy programs. We have a role to suit everybody. Volunteer information sessions are held monthly for people interested in volunteering.

Corporate Days 

With corporate philanthropy on the rise, more companies and employees have become interested in how they can contribute to their community. To fulfil this need we have offered Corporate Days since 2007.  The day offers more than a straight volunteering process; the aim is to engage corporate volunteers with both Wayside and the issues that are faced by many who visit us here. A highlight of the day is cooking and serving lunch for over 60 street people. The Corporate Day acts as a meaningful team building exercise and fosters a sense of community.

Schools’ Program

The Schools’ Program is designed for year 11 and 12 students to highlight issues facing those people on or around the streets of Kings Cross. The program is structured into two main sessions; the first focuses on engagement and education and the second session incorporates a walking tour of Kings Cross and the surrounding area. The visit concludes with a debrief and opportunity for students to discuss the initiatives they may undertake to lend support for those who are disadvantaged in the community.


The essential work we do at The Wayside Chapel never stops, but the money we need to do it sometimes does. You can support The Wayside Chapel in a number of ways. Go to for more information.

Become a Friend of the Wayside

You can ensure our vital work continues by becoming a Friend of the Wayside and making a monthly contribution to our services.

Make a Donation

All donations, big or small, are appreciated and go a long way to ensuring The Wayside Chapel continues to be a safe pair of hands in Kings Cross.

Workplace giving 

Regular giving through an employee payroll program is a simple and effective way to maximise the value of those generously given dollars, and as little as $5 per week can make a big difference to what we do.


We could not survive without the ongoing support of our friends.  But nobody lives forever.  If you want to continue your support of Wayside even after you’ve gone, you can leave a bequest to The Wayside Chapel.

Fundraise for Wayside
The Wayside Chapel has partnered with Everyday Hero to make it extremely simple for you to set up an online fundraising page. You can be sponsored for anything, from a marathon to an ocean swim, or ask for people to donate instead of flowers for a birthday, wedding or memorial service.


Visit 29 Hughes St
Potts Point NSW 2011

Phone (02) 9581 9100



Post PO Box 66
Potts Point NSW 1335


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