Mum’s fraud betrays ‘heart and soul’ of community

 

A mother who defrauded a small country school's Parents and Citizens Association has been ordered to repay thousands of dollars.

Brisbane's Joanne Elaine Shorter, 47, yesterday pleaded guilty to dishonestly gaining money.

The Brisbane Magistrates Court heard Shorter took nearly $13,500 while serving as treasurer of Goodwood State School's P&C over about six months in 2017.

The primary school of about 50 students is located in Woodgate between Childers and Bundaberg.

Police prosecutor Tara Williams said Shorter's role on the P&C came inherent with a "level of trust".

The funds taken by Shorter had come from uniform money, donations and parental fundraising activities like cake stalls and chocolate drives.

Shorter's lawyer Tyronne Thomas said his client was a single mother of four including an adult child with Asperger's syndrome and was reliant on Centrelink payments.

At the time of offending she was under stress and household bills were accumulating, he said.

The money taken by Shorter came from bake sales.
The money taken by Shorter came from bake sales.

"Ultimately, she did start to take the money to pay for these expenses with the intention of repaying that money," Mr Thomas said.

"It eventually became too much, she was unable to repay and it was sort of a snowball effect."

Magistrate Suzette Coates said when confronted with her behaviour Shorter "lies through her teeth".

"She's untruthful and nothing in her conduct when she's confronted with it indicates that she's sorry to all those kids that have missed out on the things that country kids generally miss out on," she said.

Mr Thomas said his client was remorseful and promised to repay the funds within a month although the court heard no money had yet been returned.

Ms Coates said the P&C was the heart of small rural schools.

"The school relies extensively on that money to give the children from that region extra opportunities that they wouldn't have," she said.

"You'll probably never ever be able to go back there; everybody in that community will never want to see you ever again."

Ms Coates noted Shorter was not living a luxurious lifestyle.

"There are significant issues for maintaining a lot of children living with you in circumstances where you receive social security," she said.

The court heard the death of Shorter's mother when she was a child led to an "awful and unimaginable" upbringing.

Shorter was sentenced to nine months' jail, wholly suspended, and ordered to repay $13,494.

Originally published as Mum's fraud betrays 'heart and soul' of community


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