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ACT schools breathe a little easier after Dyson donation

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Michael Peel’s unease about Canberra’s smoke-filled air spurred him to approach Dyson to donate air purifiers to ACT public schools. The result was unexpected, and incredibly generous.

Like many Canberra parents on New Year’s Eve, Michael Peel felt a growing sense of unease as a rolling wave of thick bushfire smoke descended over Canberra.

With three children aged eight, six and three—two of whom suffer from asthma—Michael and his wife Anna tried to shut the smoke out of their home as best they could.

But as the smoke filled the house over the coming hours and days, Michael began researching air purifiers. He settled on a Dyson, based on their expertise in air purification, and tried to purchase one to minimise his family’s exposure. The only problem was finding one.

“Everything had sold out. I wanted the Dyson air purifier because it is a quality technology that I trust and I ended up sourcing one in Bathurst. Then I set out on a seven-hour round trip to pick it up.”

Once home, Michael felt a sense of relief. It made a noticeable difference in the room it was in, and even while it could not purify the whole house, Michael knew his kids had access to a clean air supply.

“I mean, that’s the crazy thing isn’t it? Who would have thought this city would have to deal with such hazardous air quality? We have never even questioned our air before and now we are so acutely aware of it.”

While the family breathed more easily at home, the return to a new school year was impending and brought with it new questions about exposure to smoke in the classroom.

With his two eldest children attending Torrens Primary, Michael was considering options to purchase some air purifiers for his daughters’ classrooms but then starting thinking that there were lots of other kids who obviously wouldn’t benefit from that.

That’s when he decided to get really creative.

As a member of the Commonwealth Bank’s Institutional Banking and Markets team, Michael discussed with his colleagues about what could be done from a bank point of view to support school students, noting that the team is encouraged to apply ‘new perspectives’ thinking on a daily basis.

Michael decided to reach out to the CEO of Dyson to highlight Canberra’s smoke situation and to ask if they could work together to help solve the distribution challenge.

Dyson responded with an offer to donate 400 Dyson Pure CoolTM purifying fans to public schools across Canberra.

“OK, I was not expecting that,” laughs Michael.

He communicated the offer to the ACT government, who moved quickly to work out the best model of distribution.

Principal of Torrens Primary School, Rachel Matthews, with Michael Peel and his daughters Sofia and Olivia.

The donation is part of a $600,000 package of products including purifiers and vacuums Dyson is making to bushfire-impacted Australian communities to support relief efforts.

The ACT Education Directorate said it would be deploying at least two Dyson Pure CoolTM purifying fans to each of Canberra’s 88 public schools “to ensure that each location will have a designated area with purified air for vulnerable children and young people.”

The remaining products will be distributed to schools on the basis of the level of relative vulnerability of students and local environmental conditions.

For Michael, it has been a bit of a whirlwind.

“I guess it has shown me the value of chasing ideas and proven the fact that if you don’t ask you don’t get.”

“It gives me a sense of relief knowing that children who might have health conditions, or who might be suffering due to poor air quality will have somewhere they can go in their schools to get a break from the smoke.”

“More broadly it has been part of a community response to this crisis that has brought out the best in so many people”

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