The sudden closure of anti-domestic violence charity White Ribbon Australia has been met with a mixture of emotions, with one outspoken campaigner saying its demise was “a long time coming”.
The national charity, which is aimed at preventing violence against women, held a general meeting on Wednesday where it agreed to shut down after an “analysis of the organisation’s future sustainability”.
Jenna Price, a University of Technology Sydney political sociologist, said the liquidation of White Ribbon was “utterly predictable”.
“It had lost its purpose. There had been far too many controversies and an attempt at rapid expansion, so it’s unsurprising that it’s gone into liquidation,” Dr Price, who is also an organiser for feminist collective Destroy the Joint, told The New Daily.
White Ribbon appointed liquidators from insolvency firm Worrells, according to a statement issued to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Financial reports released in February showed the charity was in the red by more than $840,000.
“It is with profound sadness that the board of White Ribbon Australia informs the community and supporters that it has taken the very difficult decision to close its doors,” a statement from the board reads.
The company’s downfall follows a rocky period marred by disappointing ambassadors and a revolving door of chief executives.
Last year, former chief executive Tracy McLeod Howe was sacked after just three months in the role and replaced by Delia Donovan.
Ms McLeod Howe faced an intense public backlash for withdrawing a statement from White Ribbon that said: “All women should have complete control over their reproductive and sexual health”.
One of the charity’s directors, Nicholas Cowdery QC, quit last October after an ABC documentary aired comments he made about convicted baby murderer Keli Lane’s sex life.
Former New South Wales Labor leader Luke Foley was dumped as a White Ribbon ambassador last year after accusations emerged he indecently touched a female journalist.
Some leaders in the anti-domestic violence movement, like No To Violence CEO Jacqui Watt, have lamented White Ribbon’s closure.
“Any program that sets men up to be their best selves is potentially going to have issues when they’re not their best selves,” Ms Watt told The New Daily in response to concerns about the charity’s controversial history.
“There are strong merits in the ambassador approach and I know they’ve done a lot of work to clean up the program.
“Rather than banishing (ambassadors who said or did the wrong thing), we should actually sit down and talk about what happened.
“We’re not going to change men’s behaviour unless we make it OK for them to stuff up.”
Dr Price, meanwhile, said the not-for-profit’s closure was “not a big loss to the nation”.
“A big loss to the nation is directing money away from frontline services, which are in real crisis in Australia,” she said.
“A big loss to the nation is the undermining of respectful relationships programs by the federal government.”
Dr Price slammed the charity’s ambassador program as “poorly thought out with a complete lack of governance, with no due diligence – and having morning teas where men are getting cookies for wearing white ribbons”.
But White Ribbon ambassador Andrew King, who manages Relationships Australia programs in NSW, said he hoped the charity would be remembered for its school programs promoting healthy relationships instead of recent scandals.
“White Ribbon especially worked hard in the prevention space by trying to instil those key messages early in people’s lives,” Mr King said.
“It’s a real shame … My thoughts and spirit are with the people’s lives affected by this decision.”
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