Self-proclaimed Charity Fundraiser Admits Cancer Lies
23 April 2015 at 12:12 pm
A Melbourne health and wellness entrepreneur has admitted her cancer diagnosis was fabricated as Consumer Affairs Victoria continues to investigate her unsubstantiated claims that she donated thousands of dollars to charity.
Developer of the Whole Pantry app and cookbook, Belle Gibson, told the The Australian Women’s Weekly her claims she had brain cancer were false, in her first interview since the allegations that funds raised by her in the name of Australian charities were never paid as promised.
“No. None of it’s true,” she told The Weekly. “I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”
"I don't want forgiveness," she said. "I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, 'Okay, she's human.'"
Amid the new revelations, Consumer Affairs said it continued to investigate Gibson, who became a social media sensation through claims she was beating cancer and a range of other life threatening illnesses through nutrition and holistic medicine.
“Consumer Affairs Victoria is continuing to make enquiries with Ms Gibson regarding fundraising activities undertaken by her company The Whole Pantry Pty Ltd,” a spokesperson said.
The consumer watchdog previously said it was “making inquiries with Ms Gibson and her associated companies as to the nature of any fundraising appeals that may have occurred, including details of beneficiaries and net proceeds given”.
“Once we ascertain the facts, CAV will be able to make an assessment of the situation and determine whether any further action is appropriate.”
Victoria Police confirmed earlier this month that they had dropped their investigation into Gibson, whose rising popularity saw her land a recipe book deal with Penguin and her The Whole Pantry app secure a spot on the new Apple Watch — both of which have since been pulled.
The Melbourne mother-of-one was accused of failing to donate tens of thousands of dollars promised to a range of charities through the sale of the award-winning app, having publicly claimed to have given away 25 per cent of her company's profits.
In her book, Gibson writes that "a large part of everything" earned is donated to various causes.
Fairfax Media earlier reported that Gibson claimed to be raising money for five charities, but that none had a record of receiving a donation and four of the organisations, including Melbourne's Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, had no knowledge fundraising drives had taken place.
“Last year she said $300,000 had already been given to charity but now says these contributions were never made because app sales were not as high as forecast. Ms Gibson was unable to provide a list of organisations that have received money or say how much has been donated to date,” Fairfax Media reported.
Melbourne-based charity One Girl previously told Pro Bono Australia News that repeated attempts to contact The Whole Pantry about the promised donation more than a year after the event had been unsuccessful.
“In late 2013 The Whole Pantry advised One Girl that they would be fundraising on our behalf in an online fundraising event,” One Girl CEO, Chantelle Baxter said.
“In early 2015 One Girl approached Belle Gibson from The Whole Pantry to enquire about when a donation would be made to One Girl and how much was raised from the fundraising event.
Baxter confirmed to Pro Bono Australia News that Gibson had donated $1000 following questions from Fairfax Media.
“The Whole Pantry responded to these enquiries last week, in-line with being contacted by The Age, and have since made a donation of $1,000 to One Girl," the organisation said at the time.
“Since this donation One Girl has asked The Whole Pantry for confirmation of the total amount raised through the online event and have not received clarification,” the Not for Profit said in a statement to Pro Bono Australia today.