Peter Royce: Ivanhoe Grammar School (2006), Senior Project Manager at Gallagher Jeffs
Posted: 05 June 2023
Peter Royce, an Ivanhoe Grammar School alumnus (2006), was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. He completed his undergraduate degree in Project Management at RMIT and his postgraduate degree in Construction Law at the University of Melbourne. He is now working as a Senior Project Manager at Gallagher Jeffs. In his spare time, Peter volunteers as President of 300 Blankets, a not-for-profit charity that “provides caring warmth of friendship and material and food support to people experiencing homelessness in Victoria.” 300 Blankets operates a twice-weekly Outreach Program, a weekly Soul Kitchen community dinner programme, a fortnightly Care Package grocery delivery program and works with schools and universities to connect communities and enable them to affect positive change in the lives of others.
Peter believes that through conversations and relationships, we can build trust and understanding between people and communities that can often be isolated. Although unaware at the time, Peter reflects that it was the experiences he had at Ivanhoe Grammar School that sparked his passion for creating community networks based on human connections and service. A Round Square Service Trip led by his school to Cambodia in 2005 was transformative and changed the way he viewed the world around him; it sparked his passion for leadership and service.
As Peter thinks back on what motivated him to apply for the service trip, he shares that at the time it was the excitement of the journey. It was his first overseas trip and to him, a 16-year-old, it seemed like a worthwhile, fun experience. Over the course of three weeks, he would spend his time working alongside World Vision in Phnom Penh and volunteering for an organisation called Tabitha outside of Siem Reap, where he was involved in building three houses in remote villages. It was much later that Peter made the connection between his experiences in Cambodia and his powerful drive to create change in his local community.
“It opened my eyes to how you can help people internationally, but you can also help them in your local community. It took me many years to reconcile how much of an impact that trip had on various aspects of my life. It was only upon deep internal reflection as to where it [the passion to help people experiencing homelessness] comes from that I realised that it goes back to that Cambodia trip. It had a permanent positive impact.”
Peter explains that his volunteering evolved from the desire to develop relationships and authentic connections. He wanted to “connect more deeply with people on the streets who were sleeping rough and develop friendships and relationships.” After first volunteering with St Vincent DePaul in their Soup Van Program every Wednesday night, he and other volunteers began realising that there was an opportunity to do more. “At first it was a case of throwing a bunch of blankets in a hiking pack and just walking through the Central Business District of Melbourne and starting conversations with people.”
Peter has been volunteering at 300 Blankets since 2014, at that time the charity was in its infancy and the main focus was on raising money to purchase blankets. Since then, the charity has grown and now has an Outreach Programme (a group of volunteers connect with people sleeping rough on the streets) a Soul Kitchen (volunteers prepare a three-course dinner to address food insecurity and social isolation in the western suburbs), a Care Package Programme (providing groceries to individuals and families across Melbourne) and presents to schools and other organisations with a view to challenging stereotypes and deepening community understanding of the causes and impacts of homelessness).
Peter believes that most people want to help, they just do not know how to. Through his work with 300 Blankets, he has worked hard to “create a low threshold of entry for people to actually volunteer”. Peter wants to make it easy for people to give their time and their resources to support others in need and, at the same time, create a pathway and an opportunity for a conversation that connects and breaks down stereotypes. He hopes that people will gain a broader understanding of what being homeless means and that the stigma will be reduced.
“What the volunteers realise through those conversations is that all the preconceptions, and the biases, that are pedalled in the media about what homelessness is, disappears after that first conversation. They realise that they are just normal people. It is not a scary or confronting experience.”
Students, teachers, and alumni of Ivanhoe Grammar School are engaged with the charity and support the various programmes at 300 Blankets. Peter explains, “Ivanhoe has a longstanding relationship with 300 Blankets. They were involved in the Outreach Program from its inception in 2015 – Ivanhoe has been a major partner and students have been coming out and volunteering for eight years now.”
Peter says he is “floored” by the interactions he has with students from his old school as well as the initiative shown by young people – ranging from primary to secondary school age – in wanting to support their community. He says that they are impressively well versed, knowledgeable, and observant. He believes that Ivanhoe Grammar School offers opportunities for students to experience life beyond the classroom, and this develops skills. This is an approach he has adopted; he creates connections for people to experience something different and learn from it. He remembers that at school he was involved in musicals, ensembles, orchestra, and sport teams, and the 2005 Round Square International Conference hosted by Ivanhoe, but it was the power of the connections and the relationships that stays with him. “I think that what I remember most from school is not necessarily what I learned in the classroom, but more about what I learned from those group activities.”
It was only when he was at university, talking with others about their school lives, that he realised that what he experienced at Ivanhoe was different and incredibly enriching.
“It was the continued celebration of achievements within the school, the encouragement that you got if you were interested in something – even if you were bad at it – if you were keen, you would get the support to pursue it. It was having those opportunities created for you, and the support network from the teachers around you, that I think was really fundamental. I didn’t appreciate it at the time.”
When asked about advice he would give to his 16-year-old self, Peter says that he would encourage anyone at that age to take the opportunities offered and try things out to discover who they are. It is a time when you can experiment and find out what you enjoy, and what you don’t. You can discover what you are passionate about, who you are, and where you can have the greatest impact, in a way that is most rewarding for you. This was his own experience as a student at Ivanhoe Grammar School and what he hopes for the volunteers at 300 Blankets. Peter believes that “everyone can have an impact in a way that is successful for them.”