Losing a High Profile Patron - the GG Experience
4 March 2002 at 12:03 pm
Thrust into the limelight for all the wrong reasons several Not for Profits are now making adjustments after losing their Patron – the Governor General Dr. Peter Hollingworth.
Dr. Hollingworth resigned as the Patron of Kids First, a national group that supports child abuse victims as the crisis reached fever pitch.
The national co-ordinator of Kids First, Joe Tucci, went on national television and radio to explain that Dr. Hollingworth’s comment suggesting that a 14-year-old girl had not been raped, and the implication that she solicited sex from the priest, had shown a lack of understanding and sent the wrong message to children.
Tucci said that every time this kind of message comes out, it’s harder for kids are being abused to come forward.
Kids First didn’t ask Dr. Hollingworth to resign as Patron but the organisation said it accepted his decision without argument.
The extensive written statement by the Governor-General failed to dampen the debate which was complicated by the Queen’s visit to Australia and several other Not for Profits found themselves re-assessing their association with Dr. Hollingworth.
It’s not just severing ties with a high profile Patron but the flow on effects on the operations of the charities as Barnardos, one of Australia’s oldest child welfare organisations, found out.
After a Board meeting at the weekend the Governor-General also resigned as Barnados’ Patron. Earlier the organisation had decided to remove an introductory letter by Dr. Hollingworth from its annual review.
Barnardos said it was concerned about the matters of child abuse raised in the media and felt it was more appropriate that this publication be reprinted and introduced by its retiring chair who is well know to its supporters.
Barnardos CEO Louise Voigt told The Australian newspaper that donors had been contacting the organisation saying they were finding themselves ‘discomforted’ in supporting an organisation with the public face of the current Governor-General.
Chair of the Barnardos Board, Angela Crammond said in a statement that the Board formed an opinion that Dr. Hollingworth did not have an enlightened and pro-active attitude towards sex crimes against children.
She said for Dr. Hollingworth to have continued as patron would therefore be inconsistent with the commitment to the children Barnardos work with and the trust of clients, donors and other supporters.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists wrote an open letter to Dr. Hollingworth asking why he should remain as their Patron.
The College said the letter asked the Governor-General in his capacity as patron to clarify his position in relation the child sexual abuse, because psychiatrists are dealing with the fallout of these tragic situations every day.
However this year’s Red Cross Calling appeal continued with its publicity campaign using the Governor-General’s wife, Her Excellency Mrs. Ann Hollingworth to promote its annual door knock appeal which aims to raise $8.5 million nationally.
Dr. Hollingworth is associated with another twenty or so organisations as Patron in Chief or Patron in such diverse areas as conservation and education to research foundations and the ballet. However while some organisations may be in damage control there are few public statements.
Some of the organisations which list the Governor-General as their patron include:
Globathon: an organisation aimed at the eradication of child sex exploitation
Habitat for Humanity
The Stroke Foundation
The Foundation for Young Australians
The Australian Ballet
The Australian Cerebral Palsy Association
The Australian Olympic Committee
The Royal Historical Society
Royal Society of NSW
How much damage does losing a high profile Patron have on Australian charities and will the fall-out equate to a drop in support of donations?
If your organisation is in this position or you would like to voice your view on the unfolding Governor-General crisis as it affects Not for Profits why not send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or join our on-line Forum.