27 October 2022

Mystery Canberra donor's $55,000 gift launches Riverina youth suicide prevention program

| Oliver Jacques
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Michele Harvey next to Big Brother poster

Michele Harvey was delighted about the mystery donation. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A massive, anonymous donation from left field has enabled a Riverina youth mentoring and suicide prevention program to get off the ground.

The charity Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia (BBBSA) had been trying to launch a program in Griffith that matches teenagers in need of support with adult mentors since late 2020. But lack of funding stalled progress, until a mystery fairy godmother appeared from nowhere to provide the group the money needed to hire a mentor coordinator.

The occupant of the new part-time job, currently being advertised, will recruit and vet volunteer mentors, allowing the service to finally start.

Michele Harvey, a Griffith BBBSA committee member, said the big financial gift had come about completely by chance.

“We were auctioning off a painting to raise funds [from Griffith artist Carolyn Williams] for the program. Carolyn’s daughter shared it on Facebook and the [mystery donor] saw it. She said, ‘Tell me about it’ and when she heard she decided to donate $55,000 but said she doesn’t want any publicity … it was a complete surprise and it blew us all away.”

READ MORE Hillston potato farmer wins painting for raffle competition she forgot she entered

All that is known about the unnamed donor is that she is female, Indigenous and from Canberra.

The concept of an anonymous donation was famously satirised in an episode of the American TV sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show’s protagonist Larry David makes a large contribution to a not-for-profit group, and has a wing in the organisation’s building named after him. But he is incensed when his arch-frenemy Ted Danson also donates, opts to have his wing named “anonymous”, but then tells everyone he made the contribution.

“Nobody told me I could be ‘anonymous’ and tell people,” David complains.

By contrast, the BBBSA mystery Canberran benefactor is genuine in her desire for anonymity, requesting that her name and identity not be published in any media.

The BBBSA program operates in Melbourne and regional Victoria, and is now trying to establish a foothold in the Riverina. The charity recruits, trains and vets adult mentor volunteers, who are matched with a child or young person aged between seven and 17 with similar interests. The aim of the program is to prevent further loss of young people through suicide. The Griffith mentoring coordinator position is being advertised on the Ethical Jobs website.

READ ALSO Griffith rapper to launch online space for local youth to showcase talent

If you’d like to learn more about BBBSA Griffith or support its work, make contact through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Riverina Facebook Page.

If this story has raised concerns for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If someone is in immediate danger, call triple zero. Information and support for anxiety, depression and suicide prevention are available through Beyond Blue.

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