People and Places
25/11/2020
Meet Somerville’s answer to Robin Hood

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If you were to cross Robin Hood with a hotel guest, you’d pretty much come up with Pinchapoo. Since it came into being 11 years ago, Pinchapoo has distributed more than 7.5 million personal hygiene products to hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged men, women and children around Australia. Some of the items had been earmarked for landfill; others had found their way into the suitcases of hotel guests. They have all been gratefully accepted by Pinchapoo, which has become our biggest national not-for-profit supplier of personal hygiene products. 

Pinchapoo – short for “pinch a shampoo” – is the brainchild of Somerville resident Kate Austin and arose from her experience of escaping domestic violence as a 16-year-old. Finding herself with just a toothbrush – the only item she’d had time to grab before she fled her home – and the clothes on her back, Kate soon felt the overwhelming desire for a hot shower, some deodorant and some make-up so she could feel human again. 

“It was a different time back then,” she said. “There was less support and services available. It wasn’t until my late 20s while in the shower, using a mini shampoo bottle that I’d picked up from a recent stay at a hotel, that I had a lightbulb moment: I thought how these hygiene essentials could help people in need and pondered who else secretly ‘pinches’ these toiletries.”

Soon her friends also began collecting their toiletries, and together they donated them to organisations that supported victims of family violence and homelessness. Friends told friends, and Pinchapoo grew from there. 

“With 20,000 people currently homeless in Victoria, I realised it was potentially thousands of people daily that needed our assistance. Sometimes your greatest moment of heartache is the one that defines your destiny. The day I picked up that toothbrush was the day Pinchapoo was born.”

The Pinchapoo team have been busier than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they’ve managed to keep up with the demand. Often when finances tighten, food takes priority and personal hygiene gets left off the shopping list – and that’s a decision one in six Australian families have to make each week. 

As well as helping those most in need, Kate’s delighted that Pinchapoo has been able to take more than 400 tonnes of landfill-bound hygiene essentials off the hands of manufacturers and suppliers to help change lives. Over the past 18 months, hygiene products worth a staggering $35 million have been diverted from waste to those who desperately need them. 

Her team works passionately to advocate access to personal hygiene products for both men and women equally and accepts donations year-round. It’s their vision that every Australian has access to this basic human right, which is essential to our mental and physical well-being. 

Go on, be cheeky and join in by visiting www.pinchapoo.org.au

KATE SEARS

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