Char­i­ties ex­am­ined by na­tional reg­u­la­tor

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - SPECIAL REPORT -

TWO of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing drought-re­lief char­i­ties are be­ing ex­am­ined by the na­tional reg­u­la­tor seek­ing as­sur­ances the mil­lions of dol­lars in do­na­tions of goods and fund­ing makes it to needy farm­ers.

The Aus­tralian Char­i­ties and Not-for-prof­its Com­mis­sion said in a press re­lease this week it had vis­ited the of­fices of the Ru­ral Aid or­gan­i­sa­tion – which runs the pop­u­lar Buy a Bale scheme – and Aussie Helpers fol­low­ing con­cerns raised about their oper­a­tions.

Of the $50 mil­lion do­nated this year to help farm­ers in NSW and west­ern Queens­land cope with the se­vere drought, more than $20 mil­lion has been do­nated di­rectly to the Buy a Bale char­ity run by Charles and Tracy Alder from their Bris­bane base.

Brian Egan’s Charleville­based Aussie Helpers or­gan­i­sa­tion, which has do­nated food, ham­pers, hay, cash and pre­paid Visa spend­ing cards to more than 11,000 farm­ers across NSW and Queens­land for the past 17 years, has re­ceived nearly $3 mil­lion of do­na­tions in the past two months.

Mr Egan said he had noth­ing to hide.

Both or­gan­i­sa­tions said 90 per cent of all do­na­tions went di­rectly to help drought-af­fected farm­ing fam­i­lies strug­gling to feed live­stock and make ends meet.

“This is ma­li­cious and hurt­ful; any­one can come and have a look at our fi­nances and have us charged if they think we have done any­thing il­le­gal,” Mr Egan said, claim­ing he had par­tially ini­ti­ated the ACNC in­ves­ti­ga­tion to clear Aussie Helpers’ name.

“All these lu­di­crous ac­cu­sa­tions are be­ing made on so­cial me­dia – it’s out of con­trol; (my wife) Nerida and I have given up so much of our lives to help peo­ple and never re­ceived one dol­lar for our ef­forts. The more time we spend deal­ing with this is time we’re not help­ing farm­ers.”

Ru­ral Aid posted on its Face­book page dur­ing the week: “We wel­come any ques­tions from the ACNC about our oper­a­tions, and look for­ward to any fur­ther con­ver­sa­tions with the ACNC.”

ACNC com­mis­sioner Gary Johns said his in­quiry into the two or­gan­i­sa­tions fo­cused on mak­ing sure trans­par­ent and ac­count­able prac­tices and pro­ce­dures were in place and that cash do­na­tions and goods re­ceived were get­ting to farm­ers in need.

“Aus­tralians have been in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous and do­nated huge amounts of

❝ This is ma­li­cious and hurt­ful. — Brian Egan

money and goods to help those af­fected by the drought,” he said.

“We have con­tacted two char­i­ties who are co­or­di­nat­ing drought-re­lief ef­forts to en­sure do­nated goods and funds are be­ing man­aged ap­pro­pri­ately.

“ACNC staff have vis­ited the oper­a­tions of the char­i­ties. We are work­ing with them to un­der­stand their work and con­firm they have pro­ce­dures and prac­tices in place to man­age the large num­ber of do­na­tions they have re­ceived. Our in­quiries are still on­go­ing; how­ever, both char­i­ties have fully co­op­er­ated.”

The ex­am­i­na­tion comes a fort­night af­ter Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud said he had passed on doc­u­ments linked to drought do­na­tions and spe­cific ma­jor char­i­ties to “rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties” to in­ves­ti­gate.

Mr Lit­tleproud rec­om­mended do­na­tions were best given to the Coun­try Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion, Lions and Ro­tary groups help­ing out with drought-re­lief ef­forts.

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