A book about the soup vans in Melbourne and the stories of volunteers and patrons connected to them.

Please allow two and a half weeks for delivery. Or buy from your local independent bookstore! (Such as Readings!) 


Soup Van: Stories over a polystyrene cup

Edited by Keira Dickinson

ISBN: 978 0 646 58883 4

The first creative collation of stories from Melbourne’s soup vans—the vibrant history and the incredible community that surrounds them.

Soup Van: Stories over a polystyrene cup is the collective voice of 'vannies' and 'streeties', the community that exists in and around Melbourne's refuges, low income houses and commission flats.

Modern, funny, often surprising and occasionally confronting, the book offers a diverse collection of short stories, interviews, pictures and poems capturing the incredible lives and experiences of people hidden and often unheard within society.

If dignity lies in each individual’s story—told freely and heard by the volunteers—then this book achieves more than most. With its scribbled poems and red-brick realism, Soup Van speaks simply of kindness.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           —Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor of Melbourne


The book is available for order now (click the 'Buy Now' button above), and through online retailers and selected independent bookstores in Melbourne. 


What is the Soup Van Project?

The past, present and future of the city of Melbourne involves something called The Van.

This is the first ever collated story of Melbourne’s soup vans – the history and the incredible community that surrounds them – the story just begging to be told. Like the life of those patrons of the van, the tireless work of the volunteers takes place in the dark, in the tiny community halls behind train stations, in the refuges for the homeless, the low income housing and commission flats in the city, and the street corners and alleyways throughout. It goes on absolutely every night without the knowledge of everyday Melbournians. The labour of these dedicated ‘vannies’, combined with the friendships and connections they make with those who are impoverished, homeless, traumatised, lonely, and ‘streeties’ on the fringes of society, is a history that spans decades and spurs one to believe in the absolute good in humanity and what really goes on in the centre of our 'most liveable city'.

 For snippets and insights into the project check out the blog.


Although there is suffering, this book will also explore stories of strength, joy, companionship and the will of some people to survive abuses of the past and to exist in a society that ultimately rejects them. Far from joining the maddened crowds, the volunteers on the soup vans rally against prejudices and not only deliver food and drink but provide someone for ‘streeties’ to talk to and ask help from. But while there is love and companionship there are also darker sides of brutality, substance abuse, murder and the harsh reality of death faced alone on the street. It is absolutely impossible not to be affected by these stories, and as new ‘vannies’ attest, a night spent with the van can be life-changing.

Soup Vans in the City of Melbourne

There are several soup vans in Melbourne. St Vincent de Paul sponsors two of these, the Matthew Talbot and the Margaret Oats vans. These vans operates in multiple boarding houses throughout Fitzroy and North Melbourne, and also attend camps of the homeless, and deliver food to commission housing and various street corners. There are other vans that also traverse the city such as Food Van operating in North Melbourne, and Rosie’s Van in the CBD, providing free food, tea, coffee on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Our interest in the Project?

Through our own experiences volunteering on the vans in the past, and frequently seeing the vans after dark with people handing out hot beverages and sandwiches, there sprung an idea for a publication that pulls together these lives.

The possibility of the publication further burgeoned as it was discovered that ‘van historians’ existed, who had tirelessly collected newspaper clippings, diary entries, stories and letters from streeties and vannies alike, as well as eulogies, photographs, and creative pieces detailing the history of the vans since the 1970s. Meeting with these historians and veterans was a great highlight of the project, as their enthusiasm and knowledge of the people of the soup van was vast and wonderful. Taking these resources into account, as well as verbal tales from present vannies and streeties alike, there was already in existence a wealth of information that has been waiting for an editorial team to collate.

As an independent Melbourne publisher, The Rag and Bone Man Press immediately felt connected to this project, having worked on the vans, and knowing several of the volunteers as very close friends. We have a huge amount of respect for the work carried out, and thus great enthusiasm for bringing the story of the van to the inhabitants of the city.