Brisbane volunteers running free meals to those who were homeless or vulnerable have been hit with a total of $600 worth of parking fines while making deliveries.
The Rotary Club of Brisbane River City have been organising free weekly Sunday meals for the community in the inner-city suburb of Woolloongabba since March.
Starting with just one dinner a month they quickly increased it to a weekly dinner as coronavirus started to impact the community.
Members Will Bassett and Brooke Thomas gave up their Sunday afternoon on June 26 to deliver the meals and parked at Qualtrough Street along with four other volunteers.
The parking usually allowed for two hours at a time, but because of a nearby AFL game at the Gabba Stadium, parking was limited to 15 minutes on that day.
When they returned to their six vehicles, the group found each had received a $100 parking fine.
“We just weren’t aware that it was a game day, with COVID and everything they weren’t the normal games, they weren’t as regular with all the normal people attending,” Ms Thomas told Yahoo News Australia.
Ms Thomas said the only other available parking did not fit all the volunteers’ vehicles who transport the 130 meals they serve each Sunday, and it’s not safe or practical for the small group to be carrying heavy eskies full of food to and from the cars.
After approaching Brisbane City Council three times, Mr Bassett said the council refused to budge, insisting they couldn’t show favouritism to any one group of volunteers.
"We fully respect that, because we can't have people parking wherever they like and whenever they like... but unfortunately they haven't been flexible,” he told The Brisbane Times.
Members of the small group paid the fines personally and Ms Thomas said it had lowered morale for the group of 10 volunteers who were just starting to gain momentum.
"We felt like we didn’t have much of a choice, we went through the commissioner and asked if they would consider our circumstances and their answer was that we should know the signage and we should know better,” Ms Thomas said.
She explained the group could have found a better way to spend $600 than lining the pockets of Brisbane City Council.
“It’s disappointing because that money could have paid for the food or hall hire, all the costs we have to run the project,” Ms Thomas said.
Aiming to keep positive, she said publicity surrounding the fines had increased interest in the club with people wanting to make donations and locals interested in lending a hand with the community effort.
“We’ve had people message us and donate to our cause which is amazing... that money will definitely go a long way,” Ms Thomas said.
“We’re out there, we’re trying to do good. The rotary’s motto is ‘service above self’ and we’ve seen the need in the community.
“It’s just unfortunate that we haven’t had council’s backing.”
Brisbane City Council stood firm on the fines and said although they valued the community group, parking fines applied to all.
“I understand the club volunteers were parked in the area on a Sunday in June for a weekly community dinner and we value all the work they do,” a council spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
“Everyone must take into consideration the parking restrictions in place. Parking rules apply to all Brisbane residents equally.”
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