Council to vote on overbearing street-side charity workers

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Bunbury City Council will next week vote on a new policy relating to fundraising, information distribution and busking on CBD streets.
Camera IconBunbury City Council will next week vote on a new policy relating to fundraising, information distribution and busking on CBD streets. Credit: South Western Times

Shoppers are being harassed by “pushy and overbearing” charity workers who are deterring them from shops, according to several CBD store owners.

One CBD worker claims she was “cat-called” by a person representing a charity organisation while others say they witness foul language and intimidating behaviour.

The revelations come as Bunbury City Council will next week vote on a new policy relating to fundraising, information distribution and busking on CBD streets.

While Deputy Mayor Jaysen Miguel said the new policy was about streamlining guidelines for street appeals and buskers, he also confirmed it was prompted by a surge in complaints.

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“There was complaints coming in from a number of shop owners and from a number of shoppers as well about some of the activities going on,” Cr Miguel said.

He agreed that some of the feedback received from businesses was distressing and said he hoped the policy would stop the behaviour.

In submissions to the council, one worker said she had experienced being “cat-called” and the pushy and aggressive behaviour was an ongoing issue.

“We do regularly get complaints from shoppers regarding the pushy and overbearing behaviour of many of the charity organisations,” the woman said.

“Customer feedback is that it is intimidating and frustrating to be harassed by people wanting money when they are trying to go about their business and many don’t come in when they know the charities are hanging around.”

A manager at clothing store Sussan said the charity workers did nothing but harm to the business.

“These sales people stand on the corner of our business which makes people try to quickly bypass them and completely miss our store,” she said.

“They also get up in people’s personal space and stop them from passing ... which is very intimidating, especially for elderly people.”

“Those corners on Victoria Street get a reputation for harassing sales people.”

In a report to the council, staff say a complaints register did not exist until July 31, 2018 and since then the only official complaints received were towards Vision Australia organisation Seeing Eye Dogs.

The complaints include alleged harassing at Paisley Square and one of yelling out at passers-by.

Vision Australia fundraising general manager Luke Bell told the South Western Times fundraisers must adhere to a strict code of conduct that “expressly prohibits” any harassment of the public.

“As such, we take allegations such as these extremely seriously,” Mr Bell said.

“Like many charities, we use professional fundraising organisations that are accredited members of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association for our face-to-face fundraising programs.

“These organisations are specialists in providing this form of fundraising.

“We will be conducting further checks in conjunction with the PFRA to ascertain what may or may not have occurred and if there has been a breach of these standards.”

Public Fundraising Regulatory Association chief executive Peter Hills-Jones said the association would be contacting the council to better understand the situation and its members also had to adhere to a strict set of rules.

The proposed policy allows only locally-based charity groups to collect money in the CBD as long as they follow conditions, the donations remains in the Bunbury Geographe region and the group has permission from adjacent businesses.

Amnesty International Bunbury branch coordinator Phil Smith said he had been collecting in Bunbury since 1995 without any complaints and the policy would heavily restrict the organisation.

“If we can’t collect on the streets of Bunbury it will make a big dent in our annual amount that we collect,” Mr Smith said.

The proposed conditions raised several questions during the council’s briefing session this week about how it would be policed.

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