Dispute to Consumer Affairs

Members of Mount Alexander Animal Welfare have written to Consumer Affairs Victoria airing concerns about the conduct of the organisation’s committee.
Their concerns include the committee’s failure, to date, to accept a grant to establish a low-cost vet clinic at MAAW’s Castlemaine animal shelter.
A delegation of concerned members, including former president Stephanie Miller, Ian Slattery and James Mack, contacted the Express highlighting concerns they said were shared by more than 60 MAAW members.
“Since the last AGM in September 2019 there has been great volatility in the membership of the committee with seven resignations – the president, three treasurers, the secretary, the vice-president and a committee member,” they said in a prepared statement.
“With the exception of new president, Liz Nolan, vacancies have been filled by the organisation’s opportunity shop volunteers without consulting with the MAAW member base, volunteers or staff.”
They also said that in February MAAW heard it was successful in a state grant application, submitted last November, to establish a low-cost vet clinic at its Castlemaine animal shelter. They’re particularly concerned that the current committee has not yet accepted the grant.
“Animal Welfare Vic had praised the application and awarded $91,000 for equipment to establish the clinic,” they said in their statement.
“The grant had supporting letters from Mount Alexander Shire, Castlemaine Vet Clinic and Maree Edwards MP.”
Since concerns were raised with Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards, the committee received a six-month extension to make a final decision on accepting the grant.
“I think the new committee felt they didn’t have enough information to make that decision,” MAAW committee president Liz Nolan said.
“There needed to be some work on the provision of budgeting, an operational plan, employment, requirements in relation to leasing the veterinary room. There was a lot of support but nothing in detail in relation to how it was going to happen and be run.
“At the moment we have the shelter manager and a couple of people working on that proposal, providing an update on an operational plan, budget, expenses… so the committee can review it,” she said.
MAAW treasurer Merilyn Hoysted said the committee held concerns over costings to establish the low-cost vet facility.
“The grant isn’t $91,000, it’s actually around $86,088, and that amount would not cover all of the capital costs, so MAAW would have to find money to actually set it up as well as considerable ongoing costs,” Ms Hoysted said.
“The new committee looked at the financials very carefully and to be honest they did not stack up.
“We’ve been scrupulous in making sure we have a paper trail of our decision-making, so we can justify the decisions we have made,” she said.
“I would hope very much that when members read the next newsletter they look very carefully and think about the issues and what needs to be done to heal the rift. We are really keen to move forward for the purpose of animal welfare.”
Maree Edwards MP said she had directed the concerned MAAW members to Consumer Affairs.
“I understand they have approached Consumer Affairs so I think that’s the right way to go,” Ms Edwards said.
“In terms of the grant, I hope the organisation will be able to utilise the funding to deliver the project that the grant was applied for.”
Despite the discord, members say MAAW is providing animal welfare services as usual. But some members and volunteers have formed a separate group called Friends of MAAW in a move they say aims to “bring about positive change and broker a peaceful resolution to current issues around governance and create a stronger bond between the shelter and opportunity shop”.

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