Your newspaper recently reported that “inadequate” Government funding for Iluka Meals on Wheels (IMoW) has resulted in a decision to cease delivering hot meals to the organisation’s 40 clients. This caused the now Townsend – based and original volunteer – run Community Transport-turned-commercial operator, to complain that the Government subsidy of $70,000 a year for IMoW and an additional $44,000 over the past two years was insufficient.
To the casual observer, however, it must be remembered that Community Transport, started in 1995 with me and others as early clients, had no ambitions to enter the realms of the commercial world. Since then, the organisation turned itself into a part commercial group under the title of Connect You Too Limited. At the time, executive Mr Warwick Foster said the name change came about because Community Transport had grown too big commercially through its acquisitions to be registered with N.S.W. Fair Trading and was now required to be registered as a company with the business watchdog, A.S.I.C. It had, however, only grown too big because it had bought in the commercially-run Yamba Airport Shuttle and had included Clarence Eats and Iluka Meals on Wheels as part of its business.
I had previously warned two senior Community Transport office holders that they were likely to lose some or all of their Government taxpayer subsidy funding if they persisted with commercial company aims. It was therefore not surprising to me when the Government cut their Community Transport funding a couple of years ago.
The moral of the story is that voluntary non-profit charity volunteer organisations should not generally enter the commercial sphere but we see this trend increasing throughout Australia, particularly with regard to age care. Only last month, we heard of a southern based non-profit religious organisation having turned partly commercial through the running of age care facilities receiving $93 million in annual Government funding for their aged clients but showing a $30-odd million annual commercial non-taxed profit.
As far as Connect You Too is concerned, they reportedly have 35 paid staff members, more than $1 million of employee annual expenses, about 80 volunteers, a fleet of cars and buses, a headquarters building; all needing financing. Certainly a far cry from its original small River Street, Maclean, office run very efficiently as a charitable service for the elderly by a lady from Singapore and a bevy of volunteer drivers — and with far more affordable long distance transport rates.
Community Transport on the Clarence has been, and still is, a great organisation but it would serve our community better if it should revert to being purely a more simple volunteer transport provider as it was in the past without any commercial overtones. Governments do not like to finance volunteer organisations with commercial empire building aims.
Oscar Tamsen, Yamba