Pauline Preston started a charity seven years ago that has now supplied 12,000 pairs of shoes and 36,000 pairs of socks to school children in need.
Pauline Preston started a charity seven years ago that has now supplied 12,000 pairs of shoes and 36,000 pairs of socks to school children in need. John McCutcheon

How 12,000 Aussie children now have shoes on their feet

A SUNSHINE Coast woman's concern at seeing a boy walking to school with Duct tape holding his shoes together drove her to start at charity seven years ago that has since provided 12,000 pairs of shoes and 36,000 pairs of socks to children in need.

Pauline Preston said she had been driving to work in 2010 when she saw the little boy.

"It broke my heart," she said.

"I went to schools and spoke with principals who told me there was government support for everything expect practical things."

What grew from that awareness was a foundation called Brighter Future 4 Kids, of which Pauline is CEO and executive director, partnering with Bata, Underworks and Star Track Express to deliver shoes and socks to students identified by their schools as being in need.

The foundation runs Shoes and Socks 4 Kids and Uniforms 4 Kids programs which help address the reality of an Australian economy in which half of all indigenous and one-in-seven non-indigenous children live in poverty, according the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee Secretariat Report on Poverty and Hardship in Australia 2004 found poverty creates stress, hardship and deprivation from lack of food and basic amenities leading to poor educational achievements limiting employment opportunities.

The Henderson Poverty Line study linked to the 2004 report found more than one million Australian children lived in poverty while a University of Sydney National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Study found one-in-four students go to school hungry.

Ms Preston said a $34.95 donation allowed the foundation to buy a pair of leather Bata school shoes at cost, which were then transported by Star Track Express to schools that have requested help for a student.

Sunshine Coast retiree Yvonne Pattinson had driven the Uniforms 4 Kids program which converts old Queensland Police, Fire and Rescue, Australian Federal Police and Border Force uniforms into smart clothing for disadvantaged kids, with the support of Australia Zoo.

Ms Preston said police officers and firemen delivered the uniforms to schools.

She says the kids had found it cool to have clothing made from police and fire fighter uniforms.

"They (the uniforms) are unique," Ms Preston said.

"You can't buy them."

She said the shoes program had expanded to schools across southeast Queensland while the uniform program, which was in desperate need of more sewers, extended across Queensland and Western Australia.

"I'd love to take both nationally," Ms Preston said. "But we need volunteers and corporate sponsors.

"Some families only have one pair of shoes for three children. If children lack decent footwear and clothing they don't go to school or absenteeism goes up.

The foundation's board includes as its chair Sunshine Coast-based lawyer Glenn Ferguson, BDO senior partner Bruce Swan as chief financial officer, indigenous woman Rose Houston, former police chief superintendent Anne Macdonald and former Queensland Chief Magistrate Marshall Irwin.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the nation's poorest own just 1 per cent of the country's wealth while 20% of Australian own 60 per cent.


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