“Malicious lies and rumours” have pushed Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan into talks of legal action as accusations against the charity make “a mess of everyone’s lives”.
Mr Egan said he’d consulted with lawyers about defamation proceedings after months of “a hate movement” online accusing the charity of wrongdoing.
Speaking with the Namoi Valley Independent this afternoon about recent Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) inquiries, Mr Egan revealed that people on social media, and other mediums such as email, had “been terrorising me and my family … since August”.
The ACNC said this week it was working with Aussie Helpers and a different charity, Rural Aid, “after concerns were raised about their operations”.
Mr Egan said Aussie Helpers had asked the regulator to step in on October 8.
“We were the ones who initiated contact with them, because we were getting all this malicious stuff on Facebook; we asked them what the hell we can do,” he said.
The claims included misuse of donated funds: “I’m supposed to be overseas somewhere with $2 million I stole from Aussie Helpers … I’m in Dubbo.”
Mr Egan said the culprits were “a nuisance” hindering staff and volunteers, both online and in person.
“People are calling them names, saying, ‘Oh, you work for those thieving bastards at Aussie Helpers,’” he said.
But there were far more serious effects as well, to Mr Egan and his wife and co-founder Nerida.
Mr Egan has been hospitalised in recent months because of the “relentless” criticism.
“Nerida’s not real flash. She’s lost six kilograms over this. These people just don’t understand the damage they’ve caused.”
He said the ACNC representatives, who were “just doing their jobs”, had not informed Aussie Helpers of any concerns after their visit.
“I was glad they came up and had a look at Charleville [head office] and how we do operate,” he said.
“As far as we’re concerned, everything’s up to date ... audits and financials and so on.”
The ACNC said its goal was to “seek assurances that the influx of goods and funds being donated gets to those in need, following concerns raised in the media”.
“We have contacted two charities who are co-ordinating drought relief efforts to ensure donated goods and funds are being managed appropriately,” Commissioner Gary Johns said.
“ACNC staff have visited the operations of the charities, and 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 … Our inquiries are still ongoing; however, both charities have fully co-operated.”
The ACNC said it could not disclose any more details.
“If members of the public have concerns regarding the activities of a charity, they are encouraged to raise these with the ACNC by visiting acnc.gov.au.”
The ACNC is prevented by secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act from disclosing any further details about our enquiries or the nature of the concerns we have received. If the ACNC takes formal compliance action against a charity, this will appear on their Charity Register listing and on the ACNC website.
If members of the public have concerns regarding the activities of a charity, they are encouraged to raise these with the ACNC by visiting acnc.gov.au.