Charities and not-for-profits put in the spotlight
FIGURES have revealed the region's charities and not-for-profits made almost $539.8 million in a year, and more than half of this was spent on employee expenses.
Data from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has shown people dig deep for the region's 314 registered not-for-profits, which recorded a total of $10 million in donations and bequests in one year.
The data came from the 2014 annual information statements registered charities submitted to the ACNC.
The figures showed charities and not-for-profits registered in Lismore, Richmond Valley, Ballina, Kyogle and Byron had a combined gross income of $539.8 million.
More than half of this - or $291.3 million - went towards expenses, including wages, for about 6200 dedicated employees.
Government grants made up about 57% ($310 million) of the total income from the region's charities and not-for-profits, and about 2% ($10 million) came from donations and bequests.
The remainder came from other sources.
Data from the ACNC also showed which charities and not-for-profits recorded the highest donation amounts, and who were the biggest beneficiaries of government money.
Lismore's Northern Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service Pty Ltd recorded the highest level of donations and bequests in the region, having about 27% of the region's total donations pool, with $2.7 million.
Lismore Challenge Ltd recorded the second-highest donation amount that year, with $1.2 million.
Third highest was Byron Bay's Environment Projects Australia Ltd with $483,000.
A Lismore charity worker said it would be a disaster if charities and not-for-profits did not exist.
Lismore Soup Kitchen Inc president Mieke CORRECT Bell said most people probably did not realise the amount of work not-for-profits did until they became involved themselves.
The Lismore Soup Kitchen, which recorded $104,000 in donations and $2000 in government grants, operates from the Winsome Hotel and feeds about 80 people a day and provides accommodation for people without a home.
Ms Bell said their work was vital - it empowered people and reduced the crime rate, because people became aggressive and were more likely to commit crimes when they were hungry.
Without their organisation, she said 100 people would be scrambling for accommodation, support and food.
When it came to government grants, a mixed bag of charities and not-for-profits were the biggest beneficiaries.
Southern Cross University was the biggest beneficiary of government money in the Lismore, Kyogle, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Byron regions, receiving about $168.5 million.
This was followed by Ballina-based Healthy North Coast Ltd with $18.6 million and Trinity Catholic College Lismore Ltd with $13.5 million.
Ballina-based Hope Haven Association Inc raised $41,900 in donations and did not receive any government funding.
Co-ordinator Karen Scott said Hope Haven, which provided crisis accommodation to women and children escaping domestic violence, was hugely in need, and there was more demand than it could cater for.
She said the organisation did not receive any government funding and that it relied on financial donations and money made through the Ballina ADRA op shop.
Ms Scott said the organisation's work came down to life and death for some women.
She also said the work of charities and not-for-profits could not be overstated.
"The work that these organisations do with the most vulnerable people I think makes such a huge difference," she said.
BY THE NUMBERS
*314 charities and not-for-profits were listed in the Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Kyogle and Byron regions.
*About half of these (total 150) recorded donations.
*About 42% (total 131) received government funding.
*Total income from the region's charities and not-for-profits was $539.8 million.
*Total expenses were $499.8 million.
*6181 people were employed by charities and not-for-profits. 2058 were full time.
Source: 2014 annual information statements registered charities submitted to the ACNC
Lismore, Kyogle, Ballina, Byron and Richmond Valley charities and not-for-profits with the most gross income:
*Southern Cross University: $211 million
*Roman Catholic Dioceses of Lismore as trustee for St Vincent's Hospital Lismore: $36.7 million
*Tursa Employment &
Training Ltd: $22.5 million
*Healthy North Coast Ltd: $21.5 million
*Trinity Catholic College Lismore Ltd: $19.3 million
Source: 2014 annual information statements registered charities submitted to the ACNC
Organisations receiving the highest amounts in donations and bequests:
*World Vision Australia: $309.9 million
*Australian Red Cross Society: $97.6 million
*The Movember Group: $94.6 million
*Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Australia: $72.3 million
*Compassion Australia: $71.4 million
Organisations receiving the most government funding:
*Monash University: $1 billion
*The University of Queensland: $986.5 million
*Australian Red Cross Society: $936.9 million
*Deakin University: $578.1 million
*University of Western Australia: $575.4 million
She suffered abuse for 16 years before she found Hope
WHEN a Ballina woman met her abusive partner as a teenager, she thought he was a cool bad boy.
She says the warning signs were there - he was controlling and started abusing her when they first started their relationship.
But he had told her that he loved her. And hearing that as a young woman, she said "automatically your whole world revolves around them".
Jennifer, whose name has been changed to keep her anonymity, said she was with the man for 16 years before she left.
She said she suffered all the types of abuse. She's had her teeth broken and suffered black eyes and he would tell her she looked like a "f**king dog".
She can also recall a time where he tried to strangle her with a seatbelt while she was driving.
He had strict control over their money, she explained, and would not allow her to contact anyone or have friends.
He would also take the bank card and spend all their money so she couldn't go out and buy food. "I lived on a lot of baked beans," she said. "It was really hard. I breast-fed for 14 months because I couldn't afford to buy formula for my first child."
Throughout their relationship, he would go away for weeks at a time and return to her and be violent and abusive.
They had three children together, and when they were aged 12, nine and five, Jennifer left and went to Hope Haven - a refuge for domestic violence victims.
Jennifer recalls the day she went to the refuge, which was about three years ago.
Her partner showed up at the house and she hid in long grass. She waited until he had left and packed the kids in the car and fled.
"I think that was the point I thought, 'You know what? Enough is enough.'
"At first it was really hard. I had lived 16 years with this person. I grew up with this person. To leave, it was like leaving home for the first time."
She said going to a refuge was scary.
"It felt like I was a failure as a mother if I had to take them to a refuge," she said.
She arrived at Hope Haven with nothing, and the refuge provided her with accommodation for four weeks and helped her find a new place for her and the children.
Hope Haven also gave her food vouchers, clothes for the children and linen and household items such as saucepans.
She said if it was not for Hope Haven, she would have gone back to what she knew.
Jennifer also speaks highly of a program she started attending before she left, called Breaking Free.
She said this program would be great for domestic violence victims and anyone wanting to get a better understanding and support about personal boundaries.
Jennifer said it was hard for domestic violence victims to seek help because most of the time they had to go searching for assistance.
While there was more awareness about domestic violence, she said it was mostly about advertising.
She believes every town needs specialists that are purely dedicated to domestic violence, and counsellors who learn the skills provided in the Breaking Free program.
"It's the only thing that will help women to be able to get out," she said.
Jennifer said it was hard for domestic violence victims to leave, but she said people should keep trying, no matter how many times it takes.
*Anyone seeking help or information regarding domestic violence can phone DV Connect on 1800 811 811.
Concern over where donated money ends up
FIGURES show two thirds of Australians are concerned that only a fraction of the money they donate may go towards the cause they want to help.
A report from Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (emma CORRECT) said 68% of Australians were concerned about charities and not-for-profits' transparency and accountability.
The figures also showed 59% of Australians avoided giving money to people collecting in the street.
IPSOS Connect - emma executive director Jane Nicholls said having a trustworthy not-for-profit brand was more critical than ever.
She also said figures showed 49% of Australians donated less money to charities than previously.
"This is particularly true for street fundraisers - if a charity brand is seen as honest and transparent, it is more likely to gain a commitment from passers-by," Ms Nicholls said.
Figures showed the most popular charities among Australians were those that helped medical research.
About 24% of Australians donated because they felt an emotional connection to the cause, and 23% donated because it helped them feel they were changing someone's life.