Dancing funds delayed

Cr Heather Marcus (front) with Chris Lacey, Aaron Sellick, Maree Cee, John Sheen, John Taekama and Justin Abrams celebrating funds from the 2022 Werribee Mazda Dance Stars on the Floor being released after a lengthy dispute. (Damjan Janevski) 403469_01

Cade Lucas

Several Wyndham charities and community groups have finally received funding for mental health initiatives, nearly two years after it was first raised at a gala event.

In April, successful applicants for the Werribee Mazda Dance Stars on the Floor Small Grants Program 2022, including Wyndham Community & Education Centre, FLIP – Flexible Learning Intervention Program, and the Corazon Centre, were awarded $5000 each, some 20 months after the fundraising event took place.

A dispute between Dance Stars on the Floor organisers and their main charity partner, Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA), caused the delay, with the 2023 event being held and funds paid out long before it was resolved.

“We have no idea why they held onto that money for 20 months and would not release it to these organisations,” said event organiser and Wyndham councillor Heather Marcus, who accused the Mental Health Foundation of holding onto $30,000 of the $50,000 raised.

Ms Marcus believes it was it was her threat to take the story to the media that finally forced the MHFA to pay up, but despite the delay, it was better late than never.

“We are delighted that we have finally been able to receive the $30,000 from Mental Health Foundation Australia who were holding onto that money. Finally we’ve now had it distributed to the the last six successful mental health organisations in our city.”

MHFA chief executive Vasan Srinivasan disputes this version of events and said he informed organisers that the process of allocating funding would take time.

“We made it very clear that it would take some time because of national mental health month activities and Christmas coming, it would be after March, 2023 before the funding allocation process could begin,” said Mr Srinivasan, who added that other events, including major surgery, dragged out the process even longer.

“There was a bit of misunderstanding from the committee. They wanted to allocate funding to general mental health and we had advertised that it would go youth mental health,” he said.

“Then I went through major bypass surgery. It was absolutely unintentional.”

Mr Srinivasan said it wasn’t the prospect of media exposure that caused the funds to finally be released, saying he did so once he returned from extended leave following heart surgery.

He said he had no hard feelings towards Cr Marcus, saying he’d love to work with her again.

“Heather is such a wonderful lady. I was a referee for her Order of Australia Medal.”

Renovations at the Wyndham Cultural Centre mean Dance Stars on the Floor won’t happen in 2024, but Cr Marcus declared 2025 a certainty.

“We will be back bigger and better than ever next year.”