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‘Amazing generosity’: Quiet hero playing and paying in style

Hogarth’s project gave them an outlet for kindness.

“It meant that we got to help more and more people, I got to keep pushing more people to come forward so that we could help pay a bill. Phone bills, electricity, bills, all sorts of things. Mainly utilities.

Robby Hogarth in character as drag queen Leasa Mann, who has fronted a marketing campaign promoting financial literacy.

Robby Hogarth in character as drag queen Leasa Mann, who has fronted a marketing campaign promoting financial literacy.

“We had one particular case where she was a nurse who had recently had mastectomies and needed cancer treatment. We put a new battery in her car and paid for the car radio so that she could get to work and work on the front line.”

The simple genius of the idea was its anonymity. Two ubiquitous online tools of the times – Facebook and BPAY – allowed everyone in the financial chain to stay anonymous if they wanted to. And given the circumstances, many did.

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“The hardest part is people biting the bullet and admitting they need help and the stigma that comes attached to that,” Hogarth says.

“It’s really hard for people to think of themselves as someone who needs to ask for money and admit that you are X number of dollars in the hole. The point I try to get across is that this has no questions asked. There’s no sharing, everything’s completely confidential and the donors don’t know who they’re helping. It’s all completely anonymous.”

After the campaign was covered in a gay community newspaper, BPAY got wind of it and saw a perfect match – pairing the popular bill paying tool with a worthy charity mission. They approached Hogarth, and the result was a slick marketing campaign promoting financial literacy.

“We did a massive campaign on TV, radio, YouTube, Spotify. It was everywhere, to help people get better at paying their bills and give them a bit of financial literacy,” Hogarth says.

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BPAY agreed to donate $1 for every view of the Leasa Mann financial education video to the First Nations Foundation, Hogarth’s charity of choice, which provides literacy education to Indigenous Australians. In 2020, the company gave $40,000 to the foundation. Last week, as lockdown six started to bite, it donated another $10,000 to the cause. “In these challenging times we are inspired by amazing acts of generosity such as Leasa’s, and proud that BPAY provides the common tool that is enabling generous Aussies to help others during lockdown,” the company said in a statement.

Inevitably, recent weeks have seen an increase in the number of people needing help. After a thankfully quiet period over late 2020 and into the new year, Hogarth thought the worst was over. Leasa Mann was reborn on the stage, as an MC and regular hostess at Mollie’s Bar and Diner in Collingwood.

But COVID interrupted again.

“Thank God for the generosity of the community,” Hogarth says.

“Everyone comes forward and they do what they can to help. Some people can only donate $50. And some people can donate more than that. It’s my job to find the right donors for the right people.”

ROBBY HOGARTH: THREE QUESTIONS

What do you miss most about life before COVID?

Busy dance floors!

What is your best lockdown strategy?

Margaritas and Real Housewives.

Has there been a silver lining?

It’s made me realise how I want to prioritise my time after lockdowns. There are things that seem a lot more important now.

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