“They are thieving”: Golden Square Uniting op shop trashed each weekend

Team leader Josie Petersen and volunteer Sue Harper are among those at the Golden Square op shop who have to clean up the mess each Monday morning. Picture: DARREN HOWE
Team leader Josie Petersen and volunteer Sue Harper are among those at the Golden Square op shop who have to clean up the mess each Monday morning. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Donations at a Golden Square op shop are getting ransacked each weekend, creating a mess for volunteers and causing health hazards for neighbours, say residents in the area.

The residents, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution by the culprits, said every weekend there was a mountain of neatly bagged and boxed donations left at the store at the corner of Panton and Laurel streets.

“Unfortunately by Monday morning the scene is horrendous, with bags and boxes torn open, items broken, torn and damaged and strewn everywhere,” the residents said.

“Despite security cameras, they are even trying on clothing in broad daylight. Put plainly, they are thieving.”

The op shop is one of three Uniting (formerly UnitingCare) stores in Bendigo and is staffed by volunteers, who some days can’t even get in the doors the mess is so widespread.

Uniting Victoria Tasmania retail co-ordinator Mary-Anne Toner said the issue was two-fold, with the op shop also facing a “dumping issue”.

“It’s endemic with all charities,” she said.

Not only do people tear through the bags and boxes, exposing what they don’t want to the elements, some of the “donations” aren’t even that.

Golden Square volunteers have been faced with the remnants of someone’s bathroom remodeling – including the used toilet and packaging from the new one – and plenty of old mattresses and TVs.

“We really appreciate the support that people want to give to us and the donations,” Ms Toner said.

“But if you wouldn’t buy it, please don’t donate it.”

This op shop is one of the best, with good clean and cheap items, and no one no matter how 'hard up' should have to resort to being so mean and uncaring.

Golden Square residents

Each Monday, a team of about six volunteers spends up to four hours at the Golden Square store sifting through donations.

Some are taken to their Bendigo warehouse to then be sold at the stores, but others are sent to the tip – at Uniting’s expense.

Ms Toner said the charity spent about $500 each week in tip fees and skip bin hire for its three Bendigo op shops.

“Obviously that $500 is money we can’t give to our emergency relief centres,” she said.

“So that’s $500 less we can’t give to the people of Bendigo.”

Uniting operates two relief centres in Bendigo and all money raised from the op shops goes to helping these sites provide emergency support to the city.

Ms Toner said Uniting had been in discussion with the City of Greater Bendigo about the issue, but no solutions had been found. 

The residents, fed up with the mess each weekend. have called on the council to intervene.

“For the houses next door, it is a health hazard as rats or anything could get in. For the management and volunteers, it is unfair they have to spend hours sorting and cleaning the mess,” they said.

“It's time for them to come up with some ideas, maybe orange barriers with signs, anything to just stop this unnecessary trashing.”

City safe and healthy environments manager Caroline Grylls said installing barriers was a matter for the charity, but some sites had found signage and security measures helped with the issue.

“Where charities frequently receive donations at a site, we encourage them to provide appropriate areas for those donations to be accommodated, that will contain them on the property,” she said.

“We also encourage charities to provide security and signage to discourage ransacking. Offenders should be reported to Victoria police.”

The op shop already has security cameras and signs warning people against dumping, but Ms Toner said the issue was the worst at the Golden Square site.

“We are very grateful for donations that we receive,” she said.

“But please don’t leave them outside the store – take them inside when stores are open.”

Anyone in need of emergency relief can contact either of Uniting’s centres on 5443 4972 (Bendigo) or 5443 5458 (Kangaroo Flat); or visit www.unitingcarebendigo.org.au