Guide Dogs Victoria CEO resigns after Josh Frydenberg endorsement – The Age

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The head of Guide Dogs Victoria has resigned from the charity amid an investigation into her appearance on Liberal Party election pamphlets during the federal election campaign.
Karen Hayes was stood down last month pending an investigation after she appeared on pamphlets endorsing former treasurer Josh Frydenberg that were distributed in his former inner-Melbourne seat of Kooyong.
Karen Hayes appeared on Liberal Party pamphlets endorsing Josh Frydenberg.
The pamphlet featured Hayes, holding a puppy, with the headline, “Why I am supporting Josh Frydenberg”, and used the name of the charity in her endorsement.
“Time and time again, Josh has shown his genuine care for Guide Dogs Victoria and the people with low vision and blindness we serve,” the flyer quoted Hayes as saying. Hayes also featured in a now-deleted video posted on Frydenberg’s Facebook page endorsing the treasurer.
Under Australian law, charities risk losing registration for promoting a political candidate. The charities’ regulator also dissuades all charities from making political endorsements due to reputational damage.
When the endorsements emerged during the campaign, the Guide Dogs Victoria board said it had no prior knowledge of Hayes appearing in Frydenberg’s authorised campaign material and did not endorse it.
On Tuesday, the Guide Dogs Victoria board announced that Hayes, who had headed the organisation for a decade, had resigned while the investigation was still underway.
Acting chief executive Iain Edwards said Guide Dogs Victoria was “absolutely committed to its important work as a charitable apolitical organisation in line with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission regulations”.
In a statement, Edwards thanked Hayes for her service to the charity.
“Karen leaves a great legacy of modernising the organisation and having a genuine commitment to supporting Victorians with low vision or blindness to live full and independent lives,” he said.
“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Karen for her innovation, passion and commitment to Guide Dogs Victoria. Karen has always set out to make a difference and to help those that need support, and that is exactly what she has achieved during her decade in the role”.
The statement also quoted Hayes, who thanked the Guides Dogs Victoria staff.
“We could not have put Guide Dogs Victoria into such a secure position without the commitment of staff working so closely with donors, sponsors and the public and to breed and train our amazing Guide Dogs that make such a difference to people’s lives,” she said.
Frydenberg declined to comment publicly on the news of the resignation on Tuesday, although on election night he named the former chief executive in a speech as it became clear he had lost his seat to Independent Dr Monique Ryan.
“A shout-out to one of the best CEOs in Australia, Karen Hayes,” he said to a room of supporters who cheered loudly.
“I’m just so proud of those relationships [with charities] and the good work that we have done, work that will last and stand the test of time,” he said.
Josh Frydenberg addresses Liberal supporters on election night, alongside his wife, Amie.Credit:Eddie Jim
Edwards, formerly the chair of the board, will lead the organisation as acting chief executive while a new CEO is recruited.
Guide Dogs Victoria received $3.2 million from the state and federal governments in 2021, according to its financial report.
The pamphlet featuring Hayes was made public a week after Cate Sayers, the founder of Down syndrome support charity Inclusion Foundation, appeared in similar promotions for Frydenberg.
With Sumeyya Ilanbey and James Massola.
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