Australians are known for their laid-back, giving and kind-natured spirit and every year Australia stops to recognise inspiring Aussies who represent our country at its best, as part of the Australian of the Year Awards.
This year we chat to Brisbane’s social entrepreneur, Juliette Wright, selected as Queensland's Local Hero, she's now a contender for Australia’s Local Hero for her involvement in creating GIVIT.
UPDATE: Juliette Wright was named Australian of the Year Local Hero for 2015 at The Australian Of The Year Awards on January 26.
What is GIVIT?
A free online giving portal that ensures quality, donated goods get to where they are needed most. Charities don’t have any way of advertising their needs, and the community is bad at guessing what’s required by vunerable members of their local community. For example, the homeless require unworn underwear, unemployed fathers require steel-capped boots to secure work again and women who have fled domestic violence required sanitary products. Since GIVIT was established in 2009, more than 126,000 urgent requests for goods and services have been matched! In the future I would like GIVIT to become a household name, nationally.
How did GIVIT start?
Following the birth of my second child in 2008, I wanted to donate my baby’s used clothes directly to someone who needed them. I used the Yellow Pages to find charities supporting children and the ones I rang didn’t want or need them. So, I asked them what they did need.
I quickly realised it wasn’t about overloading charities with items, but instead recognising the specific needs they required to help and enable their clients.
After launching the website to my friends on Facebook in February 2010, the stories and impacts from the first donated items moved me to grow and grow. Within six months, I had set up a website and recruited 15 charities to request items.
What are some of the more wacky donations requested?
Our requests vary dramatically day to day and month to month. We have been offered wedding rings, broken swimming pools, vans with snakes and whole houses (during the floods).
Some requests sometimes seem strange. You may not think a particular item is a ‘need’ and then you hear the story behind it and realise it very much is a need. For instance, a boxing bag was requested and we initially thought this was a ‘want’ not a ‘need’. Then we discovered it was for a single mother whose son was experiencing anger issues. After it was donated, she no longer frequented hospital. An iPod is a luxury item for me, but for a boy with Schizophrenia who hears voices in his head – music is his savior.
All our charities go through an initial approval process, so we trust them to request exactly what’s needed.
How did it feel when you were awarded Queensland’s Local Hero for 2015?
Shock, total shock. I feel so, so proud and very honoured. I think people have always thought I was crazy trying to alleviate the effects of poverty nationally and I think the award has given me more confidence to grow.
Who is an Australian hero you look up to?
Hetty Johnson from Bravehearts! I consider her a mentor and luckily a friend. I am so grateful to her, because of her work my children, and many children, are safer.
What are your hopes for GIVIT in the future?
I would like GIVIT to be a household name, nationally and used by everyone who likes to donate directly to people who are impoverished via their local charities.
In 2015, we are launching a GIVIT Drought Relief Campaign. We want to pull every drought-affected community in Queensland up by the bootstraps – stay tuned!!
Last year we also launched www.GIVITKids.org.au which empowers Australian children to donate their preloved items to meet the real needs of other children ( 1 in 6 children are living in poverty). We are going to role out GIVIT Kids curriculum (approved by Qld DETE) and program throughout schools around Queensland.