For Heidi Prowse who runs Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT), the reason to put your hand up for Hands Across Canberra (HAC) couldn’t be simpler.
“We are so grateful to have such a champion foundation behind us,” she says. “For us it’s a no-brainer. Every donation goes right where it’s needed most.”
HAC is running its third consecutive Canberra Day appeal with major goals in sight. They want to raise $1 million for the 75 charities onboard for this appeal, working with the community and a number of generous Canberra businesses and organisations.
The past three years has been a stellar growth period for HAC, the independent charity foundation that also administers the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund.
The intention is to grow giving across the whole Canberra community so that individuals and businesses are motivated to give where they live, supporting many small Canberra charities who can then focus their attention on urgently-needed work.
“Business is the heart of Canberra,” HAC chair Di Kargas Bray says. “We’ve got growing confidence that people are starting to listen and recognise that what we can’t do individually to help charities, we can do together.”
It’s a sentiment that resonates strongly with Heidi Prowse.
“Hands Across Canberra has helped us to develop new programs where there is a real need. This year in particular, we want to expand into primary schools. Over the pandemic, many have reached out and asked us for support but we haven’t had the capacity to deliver,” she says.
“We have the most amazing program that starts for year three students that Hands Across Canberra helped us to develop and evaluate.
“We know its impactful in helping young people understand emotions and know how to start to seek help from the age of eight. Our workforce can be focussed in the place where we have the biggest impact – and for us that’s in the classroom, workplaces and community groups.”
MIEACT is one of multiple charities that need support to do their best work. At the launch event, Glenda Stevens from Canberra’s newest charity, Fearless Women, spoke about the need for basic resources to kickstart an organisation that would provide strong support for girls who are struggling with mental health and wellbeing issues.
For a well-established organisation like Pegasus Riding for the Disabled, HAC fundraising ensures that critically-important but high costs around managing their riding programs are met.
Donations can be made individually to participating charities through the HAC platform, or to the appeal overall.
Di Kargas Bray says there’s a lot more growth ahead of HAC after three tough years of natural disasters and the pandemic. Last year the Canberra Day appeal raised $600,000 and next year’s goal will be closer to $2 million, with 100 businesses matching funds.
Family lawyers Parker Coles Curtis (PCC) presented a $10,000 cheque to the Women’s Legal Service and partner Jacqueline Curtis says that support is excellent for the firm’s own belief that women should be able to access legal services even if they can’t afford the cost of private representation.
“PCC is a female-led family law firm and we’ve seen people at their most vulnerable with increasing rates of family breakdown, divorce and family violence,” she says.
“Good legal advice is critical. But there are big gaps between those who might qualify for government-funded legal services like Legal Aid and those who can afford private representation and that gap is widening all the time for the missing middle.”
The donations from PCC and their counterparts will enable Women’s Legal Centre clients to have the benefit of better resourcing for expert reports, representation by a barrister and better levels of service for complex family law issues.
Di Kargas Bray says that most charities have received strong support. “If we can get Canberrans today to say I’m ok, so I can help someone else, we will raise $1 million this year and $2 million next year,” she says. “It’s a collective action and we can do this together for our community.”