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Australian farming charities investigated over drought funds

A number of Australian farming charities that received tens of millions of dollars in drought relief donations are being investigated over alleged operational concerns. Rural Aid, which counts Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Woolworths among its official partners, is being probed by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Rural Aid owns and runs a number of drought campaigns including the popular Buy a Bale website.

The ACNC sent Rural Aid chief executive Charles Alder a letter in November last year stating the charity, and a number of its subsidiaries and practices, were under examination. According to the ACNC letter of November 19, 2018, the investigation is focusing on the activities of the charity from its foundation on May 12, 2015 until November 2018.

Among the ACNC’s concerns include the charity’s compliance, the management of fundraising and the management of any conflicts of interest in carrying out charitable activities.

Rural Aid was given until December 18, 2018 to respond to ACNC’s concerns, but claims it is “co-operating fully” with ACNC. A spokesman said the charity had received $30 million in total cash donations in 2018 and paid $8  million for hay distribution to farmers in need as well as paying $3.5 million in freight to deliver the hay.

Rural Aid was also “committed to the purchase” of $9 million in forward orders for hay and transport and had provided more than $1.2 million in gift cards which could be spent locally. As well as sharing the charity’s financial records, the spokesman also revealed the organisation is not the only farming charity ACNC is examining.

Commonwealth Bank and Qantas declined to comment on ACNC’s investigation into Rural Aid. A spokesperson for Woolworths said the company was “seeking assurances” from Rural Aid regarding the investigation and would focus on making sure the money was going to those who need it.


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