24 May 2023

More than 35 million items donated, 6500 tonnes diverted from landfill, and it all started in Woonona

| Dione David
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woman in goods depot

Woonona’s Alison Covington used to be concerned with transporting people. Now she transports boxes of unsold goods to those who really need them. Photos: Good360 Australia.

Many people in the Illawarra have never heard of Good360 Australia, a charity that has placed more than 35 million items into the hands of those who needed them and diverted around 6500 tonnes of “perfectly good” wares from landfill in the process.

Even fewer locals know it all started right here, with Woonona resident Alison Covington.

In 2012, having survived a life-threatening illness, Alison was re-evaluating her life. She had built a successful career as a managing director in public transport and had owned a small clothing importation business – but none of it seemed fulfilling anymore.

In search of a higher purpose, she started investigating ways she could use her unique skill set for good. There were many charities she felt compelled to support, but one gave her the option to reach them all.

group of people

(Left to right) Alison Byrnes MP, Storage King’s Laura Paradisis and Paul Hearne, Justine Elliot MP, Bulli Community Centre’s Elizabeth Brassaud and Good360’s Alison Covington come together to celebrate Storage King’s generous donation of a storage unit for the Community Centre.

Good360 helps businesses donate their excess or unsold non-perishable goods to charities and vulnerable people nationwide. This includes clothes, personal care products, toys, electronics, white goods, furniture and much more.

The organisation is well established in the US where it has managed $7 billion worth of goods and worked with 70,000 charities over three decades.

“I couldn’t un-know it. I couldn’t believe people in Australia didn’t have access to all these brand-new goods that were going to waste. And once you know about it, you can’t stop thinking about it,” Alison said.

“Thinking about the sheer scale of how many Australians might have missed out over 30-odd years of not having this, it kind of blew my mind.

“I was 13 when Good360 launched in the US. Since then, I’d gone on to have an education and a career. How many Australians didn’t because they didn’t have access to essential items?”

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On the surface, it might’ve seemed like introducing and scaling the Good360 model in Australia was a big pivot for Alison. But, in reality, her specific combinations of skills and experience, which included transport logistics, website building, mergers and acquisitions and insights into the waste in the fashion industry, made her ideal for the job.

With Australia being vast and culturally very different from the US, it would mean developing a whole new playbook. But in 2015, Good360 Australia launched.

Since then, the organisation has matched $350 million worth of goods and helped more than 3500 charities and schools in the process.

More than $2.5 billion worth of goods aren’t sold in Australia and ultimately go to waste every year.

“Some ends up in landfill, some sits idle in warehouses or stores simply because businesses haven’t figured out how to match their goods to the charities that need them,” Alison said.

“We’re a sort of matchmaker, ensuring the right charities and schools access it. That helps both people and planet.”

Tibra staff

Tibra, a proprietary trading firm headquartered in Austinmer, has had corporate volunteer days at the Good360 warehouse.

Alison has a particular passion for closing the “digital divide”. To that end, Good360 Australia is pushing for businesses to donate their retired technology, which they then refurbish for charities, schools and disadvantaged people.

“One in four Australians are excluded from digital capabilities,” she said.

“This became particularly problematic during COVID when we all had to do QR check-ins, telehealth appointments, and working and schooling from home.

“One of our charity partners, The Y, once told us about a young man taking a photography course at TAFE who didn’t have a computer. He was the only student there trying to complete the course on his phone.

“We gave him a computer and that changed his access to education and employment – it has changed his life. Those are the stories that give me goosebumps.”

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Closer to home, Good360 Australia has provided Bulli Community Centre with clothing, personal care goods, cleaning supplies and more. It also matched the centre with the local Storage King, which furnished the group with a storage unit for the overwhelming amount of goods needed to support a growing number of locals doing it tough.

“The term for what we’re currently experiencing is a permacrisis. We’ve gone from drought to bushfire to floods to COVID and into a cost-of-living crisis,” Alison said.

“We have our existing vulnerable people – the one in six Australians living in poverty – and now a new cohort of people, the working poor. They’re working two jobs, yet can’t keep up with rising rents, electricity, fuel and grocery prices. And many of them are right here.

“As a Woonona resident, it’s quite disturbing that in what looks like an affluent suburb, we’ve got people in great need. I’m so passionate about lifting people in our local community … Good360 will do anything we can here.”

If you’re a charity or school that wants to know what Good360 can do for you, or you want to know how you can join the organisation’s “circle of good”, visit Good360 Australia.

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