Bushfire appeal donations dumped

Bushfire appeal donations dumped

17 June 2010

published by www.borderwatch.com.au

Australia — Material donated in relief efforts last year to support those affected by Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires appears to have been dumped in landfill.

Last week, The Border Watch received sensitive information alleging charity goods donated to the fire relief campaign had been discarded at the Carpenter Rocks landfill.

The individual who reported the discovery requested to remain anonymous.

He claimed that while visiting the dump he came across a pile of high quality clothes, such as RM William business shirts and Nike and Adidas shoes, which had been dumped.

This prompted him to ask questions.

“Upon seeing this I asked an employee at the dump where it had come from — he replied it was dumped by the Victorian fire relief charity,” he said..

“I was instantly disgusted and saw red.”

More than 170 people died as a result of the fires and 414 were injured after blazes began on February 7 last year, practically wiping out small Victorian towns and leading to nation-wide relief efforts.

The allegation some of the South East contribution may have gone to waste prompted an investigation by The Border Watch, which obtained several damning photographs over recent days that appear to confirm the anonymous source’s report.

Additional evidence included an envelope supposedly found in one of the “Victoria Fire Relief” boxes, which read “Greetings, we trust this small gift will go some way towards your loss. The absolute best to you in your future, R & G Naracoorte”.

However, Grant District Council environmental health officer Bob Dunstone, who manages landfills in the region, investigated the claim and told the paper the dump had been legitimate and was not made by any registered charity.

An employee at the landfill reiterated this claim when questioned by The Border Watch.

Nevertheless, Mount Gambier Mayor Steve Perryman, who was involved in calling meetings to help coordinate the relief effort last year, said it was disturbing to be informed of allegations of such an act.

“If these allegations are true, especially that the goods dumped were of quality, it is disturbing,” Mr Perryman said.

According to Mr Perryman, St Vincent De Paul was the primary aid organisation for the relief effort, which was supported by other charities and some local individuals who were involved in independent collections after the region was inundated with donations.

“From what I remember, there were 10 semi-trailer loads of bric-a-brac and clothes donated which left St Vinnies working for over two weeks, seven days a week, to sort through it all — in these cases, large logistical problems in distributing the goods occur,” he said.

Mount Gambier’s St Vincent De Paul store manager John O’Brien said he was heavily involved in the charity’s Victorian fire relief efforts and they were not linked to the dumping.

“I can assure you that there is definitely no way we were involved in the dumping and it has certainly not come from our organisation,” he said.

“I was there when we loaded our semi-trailer set for Victoria and I stress to you with all honesty, nothing of ours was thrown away.”

Mr Perryman indicated there would be an investigation into the matter.

“We need to know what the reasons behind these goods being dumped are before judging, however it is an abuse of the generosity from the individuals of our community,” he said.

Dumping defended

A Carpenter Rocks man has spoken out about why he dumped goods in landfill that were collected for the Victorian bushfire appeal.

Graham Dowie, who volunteered for the appeal, spoke to The Border Watch after a front-page article was published, revealing that donated goods had been discovered at the Carpenter Rocks landfill.

He said he was left with no option but to dump the goods due to the over abundance of items donated and poor quality of some.

“In the initial stages of the appeal, we were overloaded with goods — clothing and all sorts,” he said.

“With the help of volunteers, we sorted through the stuff for two long days — the majority of goods were quality, however, we still found some donations were not suitable to be sent anywhere.”

According to Mr Dowie, there was such an abundance donated and advice was given for no more contributions to be made, but this did not stop the flow of donations.

“At one stage we advised that no more goods be sent as all the charities in the region had too much gear, however it kept on coming,” he said.

Mr Dowie told The Border Watch this led to him placing some goods in storage.

“I had to store it all so it went into a storage shed,” he said.

“Over the last 12 months, in my own spare time and at considerable expense, it has slowly been distributed to the charities.”

Mr Dowie said he had found the experience of helping people and committing to a good deed was rewarding and he hoped the incident would not taint the positives which had resulted from the aid campaign.

“I am not sure why this has been made into a mountain, when so much good has come from this,” he said.

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