He’s not considering legal action, but Rural Aid founder Charles Alder has a message for purveyors of online “smear and innuendo”: lend a hand or get out of the way.
After the Leader revealed yesterday one rural charity was pursuing defamation proceedings over a months-long “hate movement”, Mr Alder said: “I just want to support our farmers.”
“Everybody in this space is trying to work for the benefit of farmers and rural communities – if you want to help, give a hand; if you don’t want to help, please find something else to do,” he said.
Aussie Helpers’ Brian Egan said social media users were “terrorising” family and staff – some of whom are both – with slurs of misusing donated money, pushing him to contact police and lawyers.
Questions in social and other media about the two charities’ workings have also prompted recent Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission inquiries.
Mr Alder said the visitors had left “quite comfortable” after talks in Rural Aid’s Brisbane offices.
Now, despite some individuals “really going out of their way to make life hard [with] online harassment and bullying”, it was back to work.
He refuted some of the social media criticism levelled at Rural Aid that it was ignoring some people in need.
“We’re talking 100 per cent of the state of NSW, and 50 per cent of the area mass of Qld. Logistically, I think we’re doing the best we possibly can to deliver the available assistance.”
On claims staff were overpaid, including his reported $110,000 a year, Mr Alder said: “I challenge anyone to do 100-plus hours a week and do it for nothing.”
“There’s this idea you need to pay people who work for charities next to no money, which is probably the reason so many charities … something like 90 per cent, turn over less than $50,000 [per year],” he said.
“The rest turn over more because they’re professional, ethical, well-connected operations, and that helps them raise the money.”
The ACNC – the national charity regulator – said this week it was “working with a number of drought relief charities after concerns were raised about their operations”.
It said both groups had “fully co-operated” but could not reveal any more.
“If the ACNC takes formal compliance action against a charity, this will appear on their Charity Register listing and on the ACNC website.”