‘WE ARE NOT THIEVES’

St John vol­un­teers heart­bro­ken by of­fi­cial re­sponse about donor funds

Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - Macken­zie Co­la­han Macken­zie.Co­la­han@cnbtimes.com.au

MONTO res­i­dents are still reel­ing from St John Am­bu­lance Queens­land’s de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate their lo­cal di­vi­sion af­ter 28 years.

Three months on, the com­mu­nity is no closer to un­der­stand­ing why the call was made.

Col and Claire Har­ris, long-serv­ing for­mer vol­un­teers and pil­lars of the North Bur­nett com­mu­nity, were left in the lurch and feel they were mis­treated.

The district’s frus­tra­tion cen­tres on money. They want to know what hap­pened to the al­most $20,000 raised in the name of St John’s Monto di­vi­sion.

They as­sumed the cash they do­nated would help sus­tain a char­ity that was so im­por­tant in the bush.

Cal­lide MP Colin Boyce was less than im­pressed and went in to bat for the for­mer vol­un­teers.

Re­la­tions between Mr and Mrs Har­ris and St John reached break­ing point last week when they read a let­ter from St John Queens­land se­nior man­age­ment.

In the let­ter, seen by the Cen­tral & North Bur­nett Times, St John ques­tions whether the di­vi­sion had raised any money in the past three years.

“If there have been funds raised since 2015 in Monto in the name of St John, there is no record of any amounts ever be­ing de­posited into the cur­rent St John ANZ ac­counts,” the let­ter states.

The cou­ple were heart­bro­ken.

They per­ceived the slight as a sug­ges­tion they had pock­eted the money.

In No­vem­ber 2015, when Mr and Mrs Har­ris were asked to re­lin­quish con­trol of the Monto Di­vi­sion’s ANZ ac­count to St John’s cor­po­rate of­fice in Bris­bane, its clos­ing bal­ance was $33,930.

Between April 2016 and May 2018, the Cen­tral & North Bur­nett Times has seen copies of signed ANZ de­posit slips that show a to­tal of $19,271 was de­posited by Mr and Mrs Har­ris into the St John ac­count.

Of this fig­ure, $4121 was the pro­ceeds of com­mu­nity do­na­tions and raf­fle ticket sales.

Each of the de­posits made dur­ing this pe­riod cor­re­sponds with an in­ter­nal St John bank­ing lodge­ment form, com­pleted and signed by Mr Har­ris and filed with the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

St John said in its let­ter that rev­enue from the pro­vi­sion of first aid ser­vices at events had di­min­ished to the point the or­gan­i­sa­tion rarely broke even – an un­sus­tain­able sit­u­a­tion for a char­ity.

Mr and Mrs Har­ris are adamant the Monto di­vi­sion didn’t op­er­ate at a loss but con­ceded they had slowed down in the past few years.

Col has been bat­tling can­cer since 2014 and is on a wait­ing list to re­ceive heart surgery.

De­spite the ad­ver­sity, am­bu­lance work was the only life he’d ever known and Col said he was de­ter­mined to keep go­ing for as long as he could.

“That’s the thing I’m most up­set over,” Mr Har­ris said.

“Af­ter ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened, they’re ac­cus­ing us of pinch­ing money.

“They’re say­ing if we earned any money we must have kept it. I’ve never pinched any­thing.

“All those times we woke up at 3am and got home at 11pm do­ing events and we get a kick in the guts for it.”

“It’s black and white,” Claire said.

“We worked hard for St John for all those years and we were let down.”

St John de­clined re­quests for com­ment.

❝ All those times we woke up at 3am and got home at 11pm do­ing events and we get a kick in the guts for it.

— Col Har­ris

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