Update And Appeal For Donations

Rosie Williams

8th Apr 2019

It's time for me to update my network on what has been going on since January, what I have accomplished and what I will need going forward. After removing myself from any form of Centrelink support in mid 2018, I've managed to struggle through the past eight months on donations and small payments for my writing from Independent Australia, Iron Bastion and Eureka Street.

As 2018 was coming to a close, I was offered a few hours work helping People with Disabilities Australia move their site content from their legacy site to their new domain. I felt honoured to work for such an outstanding cause and as my task was to move and summarise every submission and re-create each media release from what must be one of the busiest advocacy groups in Australia, I relished the opportunity to better understand the issues facing people with disability and the extraordinary range of policy issues they engage with.

During this time I was also rebuilding and re-designing AusGov.info the major transparency project that I launched at Linux Conference Australia in January 2018. During this re-design I realised that due to its ever growing complexity and scope, if I was going to keep this project online I was going to have to devote most if not all of my time to it. To do this I would need to crowdfund my living expenses.

Having struggled so much to get through the year, I launched a brief campaign at the end of January when I relaunched the re-designed AusGov.info site. At that point I felt quite uncomfortable with crowdfunding but people were kind enough to donate enough for me to get through the coming few weeks within the first few days. One person even donated $2k and, along with my monthly Patreon this gave me a few weeks to move into the next phase of the project and create journalism based off the data projects.

During the rebuilding phase of AusGov.info I had worried that I would not be able to continue such a huge project alone, given that I am for every single role whether technical, political, journalistic, or business oriented. I started thinking about the possibility of recruiting volunteers to help me. Given the technical complexity of the site, I decided that it would be easier to recruit journalists to write articles than it would be to recruit highly skilled coders to work on the codebase.

When my efforts to recruit journalists fell flat, it occured to me that it probably isn't any easier to write articles about the data than it is to create the project in the first place. I realised it was going to be up to me to both keep the data updated, maintain and improve the code and write the articles that would engage people with the site.


On the technical front, I updated the following datasets published annually by the government over the last months:

I also made a series of updates to the functionality of the site, adding in pecuniary interest matches and Commonwealth tenders data to top earner's tax data. In effect this means that when people display the tax paid (or not) by top earning companies, they can see at a glance, the gifts provided to, or shares held by politicians for that same company as well as Commonwealth tenders.

While there is tax data for 'top earning' companies, there are other types of political donors (individuals, industry associations, unions and associated entities). Interests and tenders data has also been added to these searches. I improved the political donations data markedly by providing totals of recipient of donations for each of the donors.

Commonwealth tenders has also been added to the charities data.

Lastly, after happening across a tweet informing people that data journalists at The Guardian had scraped the NSW Ministerial Diaries, I created a new project and made them searchable here.

In terms of visitors to my AusGov.info, I added a hit counter to total visitor numbers by folder. This can be accessed (on larger screens only) by clicking on the circular menu button in the page footer. The hits are displayed just above the folder name.

I also have access to Awstats which generated the following totals:

It’s Christmas every day for our politicians

28th Jan 2019

Recieving gifts and favours is part and parcel of political life. This cheat-sheet provides a bird’s-eye view of gifts and hospitality as it stands today.

the hidden wealth of basic religious charities

1st Mar 2019

Religious charities should not be able to hide their wealth- updated with comment from Andrew Leigh.

for better or worse

21st Mar 2019

Let’s show ATO whistleblower, Richard Boyle that we have his back.

we are all special snowflakes and why it matters

28th Mar 2019

Macquarie university researcher responds to ABS TableBuilder claims.

our most prolific corporate gift givers

5th Apr 2019

Ever wondered which companies give most often to our federal politicians? Recent analysis of interests data provides answers.

Whistlebowers: the heroes behind the stories that matter

17th Sep 2018

Whistleblowers play an essential and often-overlooked role in the major stories that hold out institutions to account. This article looks at the consequences to whistleblowers and media for recent changes in National Security legislation and includes the 11 point UNESCO evaluation of legislation written by Julie Posetti.

Taking over the corporate regulators one IPA appointment at a time

7th Sep 2018

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is the independent Commonwealth authority charged with governing access to government information and organisations that fall under the Privacy Act. This article traces the early years of the OAIC as it weathers attempts to abolish the office by the Abbott Government.

the IPA’s long march through the bureaucracy

5th Sep 2018

This article follows on from the article on the OAIC and traces the early years of the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission as the Abbott government attempts to abolish the office. The ACNC is the Commonwealth charities regulator responsible for governing the multi-billion dollar charity sector.

Deconstructing the democracy sausage

3rd Sep 2018

This article looks at the privacy and security issues like to arise with attempts to move election voting online or through the use of voting machines.

baird unleashes on her audience revealing right wing bias

13th Aug 2018

For the last two weeks I've been busily building a couple of datasets and developing a site to track ABC panellists, their affiliations and number of appearances.

hidden inequalities of tax concessions

14th May 2018

Every year the government releases totals of the revenue 'foregone' to the budget of tax concessions. Early in 2018 I made the first ever open interactive data project using this data. this article explains the data and what it means for the budget and inequality.

show me the money unravelling the web of australian charities

6th Apr 2018

The wealth of the various religious denominations active in Australia is a point of interest in the wake of the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, yet the true financial worth of religions in Australia remains something of a mystery.

turning the tables on what we know about australias powerful people and institutions

29th Mar 2018

For the last four months I have been coding solidly to build the largest financial transparency project that exists in this country. This project is based on work I have done in previous years which I quickly decided to reboot, re-design and expand dramatically during December 2017.

Special Report: Australia’s religious charities

5th Jun 2019

The financial information of over fourteen thousand religious charities is analysed for the first time.

The Australian doxes anti racism campaigners

6th Oct 2018

Anti-racism campaigners Sleeping Oz Giants and their followers on Twitter are subjected to defamatory campaign in The Australian.

PEXA introduces MFA but more guidance needed

25th Sep 2018

This article explains the recent hack of the national property lodgement database and the risks to legal firms and their users of using SMS in two-factor authentication.

Defending your organisation with training and technology

1st Nov 2018

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) released their quarterly report on the Notification Data Breaches Scheme earlier this week. Read about what this means for your organisation and what you can do about it.

Australia’s migrant labour pains

3rd Dec 2018

Up to one in ten Australian jobs are now performed by temporary workers. This article places this trend into an historical context of exploitation of foreign workers and the wider historical context that has shaped the culture of worker rights.

Budget enshrines neglect of older women

29th Apr 2019

There are interesting lessons for older Australians in the budget data.


With the handing down of the Pell verdict, my work with charities data informed me of the glaring omission of the financial information of ‘Basic Religious Charities'. Despite all the information that is now collected and made public on Australian charities, Basic Religious Charities enjoy an exception in the legislation that means they do not have to report their finances to the government. There is no true picture of the finances of our religious organisations in Australia and this has significant implications for expectations around compensation for victims of child sexual assault.

After speaking with an expert source on the topic who had helped draft the legislation and confirmed that significant finances are likely hidden through this exception, I published an article on the topic. While Fairfax reporters had done substantial work in estimating the worth of religious organisations in Australia from various data sources this did not include charities data and they did not mention the exception in the legislation that needs to be overturned to get a clear picture of the finances of Australian religious organisations.

During this period, I became aware that ATO whistleblower, Richard Boyle was facing up to 161 years in prison on a 66 charges due to his efforts in standing up to the ATO for garnisheeing individuals' bank accounts. Being very concerned about his welfare and seeing that he was wanting to marry his fiancee, Louise Beaston, I decided to write an article to try help him raise funds toward the wedding.

In privacy news, Macquarie university researchers had announced discovery of a vulnerability in the ABS TableBuilder, a service used by the public to query the census data. With my strong and intimate knowledge of the history of the census and privacy, I spoke with the researcher who discovered the vulnerability to better understand the issues which the ABS was disputing and wrote about it here.

I also wrote a general introductory article giving an overview of pecuniary interests data otherwise known as, what politicians own, owe and are given. More recently, an article summarising the most prolific corporate givers.

This brings me up to date on the work completed since my last push for funding in January. With some articles under my belt and having got through the major updates to datasets that occur over the Christmas new period each year as well as the recent budget, I'm feeling less like I'm trying to juggle knives and more like managing this huge data project on my own is doable.

People may be aware that I applied for one of the jobs with Crikey's new investigative team. I did get through the process far enough to meet with Chairman, Eric Beecher. I was surprised to be informed they were no longer seeking a data journalist however they may give me a couple of days work a week at some future point if they can find the funding.

While it is an exciting proposition, it is not clear at this stage whether or not any paid work will be forthcoming and, having delayed my funding campaign while I waited to see how that opportunity would resolve itself, I now find myself in urgent need of funds.

Funding updates

I've received a total income of $7,600 so far this year, the vast majority of that (approx. $4,500) from the appeal for funds at the end of January.

The rest of that figure comes from my Patreon account. I currently have just over 50 regular donors on Patreon which now provides a monthly total of approximately $750 AUD.

I receive no welfare or income from any sources other than my donors. I constantly struggle just to keep a roof over my head and given the amount of work I am performing this often strikes me as just plain wrong.

Having said that, I am grateful that I have survived this far on the generosity of my followers and your belief in the work that I do. I need to expand my circle so that more people can donate as I am aware that when there are individuals who have given $200, $500 or even $2,000 during my last appeal, these may well be one-off gestures and without new donors my welfare and the work I perform is at imminent risk.

If you value the work that I do please help me continue by making a one-off donation to my bank account or for regular donations via the Patreon platform.

Having no campaign options other than relying on word of mouth, telling your networks about my work is a massive help to what I do. If you have already donated please accept my enthusiastic and humble appreciation!

Account name: Rose Williams
Bank: St George
BSB: 112-908
Account number: 485 746 256

I hope you enjoyed reading 'Update And Appeal For Donations' by Rosie Williams Consider sharing this article or becoming a patron of this work. Public support is my only source of income.