After 29 years, St John volunteers Claire and Col Harris  have been told their services are no longer required.
After 29 years, St John volunteers Claire and Col Harris have been told their services are no longer required. Mackenzie Colahan

'They're accusing us of pinching money'

MONTO residents are still reeling from St John Ambulance Queensland's decision to terminate their local division after 28 years.

Three months on, the community is no closer to understanding why the call was made.

Long-serving former volunteers and pillars of the North Burnett community, Col and Claire Harris, were left in the lurch and feel they were mistreated.

The district's frustration centres around money. They want to know what happened to the almost $20,000 that was raised in the name of St John's Monto division.

They assumed the hard-earned cash they donated would help sustain a charity that was so important in the bush.

Callide MP Colin Boyce was less than impressed and went in to bat for the embattled former volunteers.

Relations between Mr and Mrs Harris and St John reached breaking point last week, when they read a letter from St John Queensland senior management.

In the letter, seen by the Central & North Burnett Times, St John questions whether the Monto division had raised any money in the past three years.

"If there have been funds raised since 2015 in Monto in the name of St John, there is no record of any amounts ever being deposited into the current St John ANZ accounts," the letter states.

Mr and Mrs Harris were heartbroken. They perceived the slight as a suggestion they had been pocketing the money.

In November 2015, when Mr and Mrs Harris were asked to relinquish control of the Monto Division's ANZ account to St John's corporate office in Brisbane, its closing balance was $33,930.

The Central & North Burnett Times has seen copies of signed ANZ deposit slips from between April 2016 and May 2018, that show a total of $19,271 was deposited by Mr and Mrs Harris into the St John account.

Of this figure, $4121 was the proceeds of community donations and raffle ticket sales.

Each of the deposits made during this period corresponds with an internal St John banking lodgement form, completed and signed by Mr Harris and filed with the organisation.

St John said in its letter that revenue from the provision of first aid services at events had diminished to the point the organisation rarely broke even. An unsustainable situation for a charity.

Mr and Mrs Harris are adamant the Monto division didn't operate at a loss but conceded they had slowed down over the last few years.

Col has been battling cancer since 2014 and is on a waiting list to receive heart surgery.

Despite the adversity, ambulance work was the only life he'd ever known and said he was determined to keep going for as long as he could.

"That's the thing I'm most upset over," Mr Harris said.

"After everything that's happened they're accusing us of pinching money.

"They're saying if we earned any money we must have kept it. I've never pinched anything.

"All those times we woke up at 3am and got home at 11pm doing events and we get a kick in the guts for it."

"It's black and white," Claire said.

"We worked hard for St John for all those years and we were let down."

St John declined the Central & North Burnett Times requests for comment.


Your guide to the South Burnett Christmas Carnivals

Your guide to the South Burnett Christmas Carnivals

There will be rides, stalls and entertainment for the whole family.

Our guide to a South Burnett Christmas

Our guide to a South Burnett Christmas

Celebrate Christmas at the carnival or with a Santa photo.

South Burnett kindy closes its doors

South Burnett kindy closes its doors

The Lady Gowrie Wondai Community Kindergarten has closed its doors.

Local Partners