The dedicated and long-serving volunteers on the Lady Mayoress’s Committee (LMC) are reeling after being dumped by the City of Melbourne.
Committee member Gabriella Stefanetti said volunteers were left shocked, confused and angry after being told in June their services were no longer required.
She said that, since then, it had emerged that the committee had no funds of its own, no patron organisation, no home and had possibly even lost its name.
It is currently seeking new opportunities to continue its charitable work.
The group has been raising funds for charity since it was formed in 1959 and, until relatively recently, operated independently from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (LMCF).
The committee says it became dependent on the LMCF during the tenure of former mayoress Emma Page-Campbell. During these later years, the larger charity would pay its expenses and dispense funds raised on its behalf to nominated charities.
Ms Stefanetti said the committee was blindsided when on June 4 LMCF CEO Catherine Brown announced the foundation was withdrawing its support.
“We felt something was brewing and there was some talk about changes at the time,” Ms Stefanetti said. “But we never thought the end would come so brutally.”
“She said they were no longer behind us. Everyone was just so stunned. The way they did it really upset us,” she said.
LMCF communications manager Suzanne Doig told CBD News the foundation originally provided administrative support to the committee at the request of the City of Melbourne.
“The City of Melbourne holds responsibility for the Ladies Mayoress’s Committee (LMC), not the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. The foundation provided administrative support to LMC at the request of the City of Melbourne,” she said.
Ms Doig said the foundation told the council in March it could no longer provide support.
“As foundation CEO, Catherine Brown advised the City of Melbourne in March this year that it could no longer provide this administrative support due to increased public reporting in relation to fundraising outcomes under Consumer Affairs Victoria requirements,” Ms Doig said.
“Catherine was then invited by Cr Susan Riley to attend the LMC meeting on Monday, June 4.”
“The LMC holds a charitable fund account with the foundation, which provides a perpetual legacy supporting women and families in Melbourne. Each year the LMC notifies the foundation of their chosen charitable organisations to receive a donation from the net income from these charitable funds.”
Ms Stefanetti said the LMCF held $200,000 in trust on behalf of the committee and would continue to dispense interest earned to charities. But it has left the committee itself penniless, and it has had to cancel this year’s Christmas function because it has no money.
Ms Stefanetti said, despite the setback, the committee was determined to continue it charitable work and was current assessing its future.
“We want to regroup and attract a lot of new members,” she said.
She said the City of Melbourne was organising a “farewell” for the committee on November 28.
“We’re so angry because these women have contributed so much of themselves over the years,” she said. “Everything they did, they did from the heart.”
A City of Melbourne spokesperson said in response: “The City of Melbourne looks forward to hosting an event to recognise the individual and collective achievements of the Lady Mayoress’s Committee during the past 59 years.”
“The Lord Mayor and Cr Riley have hosted a workshop to assist the committee, have attended the Lady Mayoress’s Committee’s AGM in September and continue to actively work with the group.”
“The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund ceased operational support for the Lady Mayoress’s Committee on 30 June, 2018.”
“The Lady Mayoress’s Committee is not a committee of council and does not have any legal structure. It is not the role of council to run fundraising organisations.”