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‘I’d do it again in a heartbeat’: Accidental charity calls it a day after raising $1.3m for outback flood relief

After devastating floods ravaged north-west Queensland in February 2019, a group of Cloncurry girls created a web-based fundraiser for a native barbecue. 

Unexpectedly, the group raised over $1 million, and in a matter of weeks had been thrown into the accountability of charity work, catastrophe relief and finally, scrutiny. 

The Sisters of the North (SOTN) charity formally disbanded this week after two years, with greater than $1.3 million donated to north-west Queensland communities and councils.  

Reflecting on the expertise, co-founder Susan Dowling stated she would do it all again, however had some warnings for others who would possibly discover themselves in the identical boat throughout future disasters.

Unexpected beginnings

Ms Dowling, from Round Oak Station south of Cloncurry, remembered the build-up to the monsoonal occasion, with north-west Queensland enduring scorching warmth and drought. 

“We had a 43-day record of over 40 degree heat,” Ms Dowling stated. 

“Looking back on it, when it did start raining, it was a massive moment of jubilation.

Cattle huddle together in a paddock at Carnwath Station, south of Richmond.
Cattle huddle collectively in a paddock at Carnwath Station, south of Richmond.(

Supplied: Marty and Camilla Rogers


Within 12 days, half-a-million cattle died from drowning or exposure, which led to income losses for surrounding cattle stations and communities. 

Ms Dowling said Sisters of the North was never supposed to be a charity. 

“We had been at a marriage ceremony, and a few of the women thought it could be a good thought to carry a fundraising occasion for the drought,” she said.

“We had known as that occasion Sisters of the North, however when the floods got here, we made a GoFundMe web page for that as an alternative.” 

Two cattle walk in deep mud in flooded paddock near Richmond in north-west Queensland.
Cows roam a muddy Richmond property amid days of rain and harsh winds.(



The page raised $100,000 in four days, then $250,000 within 10 days. 

“We needed to all of the sudden leap by means of hoops to get ourselves registered as a authorized charity to distribute the cash that was coming in,” Ms Dowling said. 

In a matter of weeks, a board was made up of Susan and Peter Dowling, Hannah and Sos Hacon, Dr Leonie Fromberg, Kelly Shann, and Jane and Anthony McMillian. 

More than $1.3m given to community

In its two-year lifespan, SOTN distributed funds through a series of vouchers that could only be spent in north-west Queensland towns, and community events including balls and rodeos. 

Vouchers took up 70 per cent of the money, 10 per cent went to administration and the remaining 20 per cent to 63 community events.

The vouchers equated to greater than $1 million spent, as of September final yr.

women holding sisters of the north sign
Board members Susan Dowling and Kylie Warrian with volunteers throughout a 2019 charity occasion.(

Supplied: Susan Dowling


“Local mine MMG had additionally donated funds for our operational prices, which gave us a lot of flexibility,” Ms Dowling said. 

This month, the charity was left with $15,000, which will remain in the account in caretaker mode.

Although the SOTN charity has disbanded, Ms Dowling said the name was still registered as a campdraft sporting group. 

Advice for other disasters

The Cloncurry Shire consists of greater than 2,000 folks, and Ms Dowling stated the board had felt a change in their social lives. 

woman standing in outback landscape
Susan Dowling now works with the Western Queensland Primary Health Network.(

Supplied: Susan Dowling


When the charity reached the $1 million mark, there were consistent phone calls demanding where the money was. 

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t Tom Cruise,” she said. 

“I did not get up one morning and assume I wished to start out a charity, it simply went that means.

Ms Dowling’s recommendation to different folks in the identical scenario was to get skilled, discover assist, and count on a pressure in your private life.

“I’m not saying I did it all on my own — the board and locals [who were] part of Sisters of the North are incredible,” she stated. 

family standing in outback landscape
Ms Dowling says the charity was a private juggle along with her household, with husband Peter and kids Jack and Jodi. (

Supplied: Susan Dowling


“We just had our final event in Cloncurry, and I fell into bed and just thought ‘it’s done’.

“If I used to be requested to do it again, I might say sure in a heartbeat. My husband and youngsters would most likely assume in any other case.”

#Note:- Author Name:- Kemii Maguire

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