The Mount Alexander Animal Welfare group hopes more organisations can follow in its footsteps and establish sustainable models that benefit animals shelters.
Multiple income streams from local government, grants and the group’s own op shop and cafe will help fund the MAAW Animal Shelter in Castlemaine.
On Thursday, MAAW officially purchased the animal shelter after taking over the lease in 2017.
But it was the work and planning from mid-2017 that set up the group’s venture so well.
“We're just a group of people who love animals,” MAAW president Tania Butterworth said.
“I think we lead by example and would love to see what we have done transferred to other communities.
“We've set up this (op shop). Everything has been donated and we were able to set up a little cafe to fund the shelter as well.”
Bendigo is now facing a similar situation after the City of Greater Bendigo told the RSPCA its services are no longer required after the RSPCA tried to drive up charges during negotiations over long-standing arrangements.
The council plans to run the animal shelter services themselves but admitted that the cost would be significantly higher than what it already paid.
Ms Butterworth said there was no reason Bendigo council couldn’t have a similar, sustainable setup to what MAAW has established over the past 13 months.
“If (Bendigo council) believe (our model) is the best model for their community – and all communities are different – I can’t see why it wouldn’t work,” she said.
“The underlying thing is what's in best interest of the animals and what can we achieve as a community, because council is part of the community. If people are prepared to work together, anything is possible.
“Not knowing what model Bendigo will move on, whether (it’s working) for themselves or embracing a another MAAW-type organisation, I always believe that if you are prepared to work with council and council is prepared to work with its people, you're only ever going to get the best outcome.”
Ms Butterworth said the support they received from Mount Alexander Shire Council had been fantastic.
“People can often be critical of councils but we cant in any way because they backed us 100 percent,” she said.
“Getting the best combination of council and community that you can get for Bendigo (is important).
“If (Bendigo) council is thinking 'we'd love a community group to work with' there's no reason why one can't be formed.
“We never existed prior to (RSPCA deciding to leave Castlemaine) so anything's possible.”
After forming in mid-2017, the MAAW team knew the initial 12 months would be a challenge. They needed to pay the shelter’s rent, feed the animals being housed there and ensure there was transportation for vet visits.
“These were some of the uncertainties that kept everyone awake at night,” Ms Butterworth said. “But we were desperate to keep the shelter services in town.
“(Projects like this) work if you have passion, they work if you have leaders and they work if you have community behind you. We had all three, we couldn't lose.”
(Projects like this) work if you have passion, they work if you have leaders and they work if you have community behind you. We had all three, we couldn't lose.Tania Butterworth, MAAW president
After being given an initial three-year lease on the animal shelter, MAAW took just over a year to achieve its main goal.
“It is probably rare (result) but the fact is that all the people on committee and everyone that stood with us, believed in us and believed we could achieve it,” Ms Butterworth said.
“Even the ANZ said the speed we were able to save for a deposit and be approved for a loan was amazing. Everything went so smoothly and they were a fantastic help for us.
“When we were told we needed $150,000 to build a cattery, we just said ‘we'll get it done’ and we have and we are.
“We tried to not let doubt creep in too much. We stayed focused a committee.”
The initial expansion of the op shop was an exciting step forward for the group. The excitement rose further when the op shop opened its cafe – Pause for MAAW.
“We’re going to call it an emporium now because someone said we've taken the op out of op shop,” Ms Butterworth said.
“We just thought we were going to run a little op shop and be able to run the shelter and build a cattery. But we are going leaps and bounds beyond anything we thought we could do.
“Sometimes we sit there and can’t believe where we're at. It's phenomenal. It's bigger and much better than every thought it would be.”
Ms Butterworth said it was a strong team of leaders that had helped advance the cause so far, so fast.
“We have some fabulous people on the committee who are the leaders of our organisation,” she said.
“It’s like a box of apples. It has to be healthy at the top. Our organisation is healthy because of the committee.
“But the respect goes both ways. I would never ask a volunteer to do something that I wouldn’t do.”
Ms Butterworth said she believed the community was encouraged because it could see first hand how the benefits from the incomes, donations and profits were being used.
“When something's tangible and you can see where the money's going, that's what makes the big difference,” she said.
“We just thank our community so much for putting their hand in their pocket to support us. The more (support) we get, the more secure the shelter's future is.”
For more information on the Mount Alexander Animal Welfare group log on to https://maaw.org.au
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