Celeste Barber has made a rare statement about the $51 million bushfire fundraiser for the NSW Rural Fire Service.
After the Supreme Court ruled that all funds would go only to the NSW RFS back in May, the comedian is now urging politicians to change the rules due to the “unprecedented instance”.
On July 15, in support of a Greens bill — which will aim to amend the strict protocol on large donations — Barber wrote a submission saying that, “maybe something that we have never seen before deserves the consideration of a change of rules in this unprecedented instance.”
In the statement, Barber said that she hoped that this would be a “new way of the world coming together” during a crisis and expressed “concern” that “if it is not possible to help these people have their money allocated to where they want it to go in this unprecedented instance that this may be the last we see of such generosity on such an international scale.”
An inquiry into the bill is taking place on July 16.
Celeste Barber’s Bushfire Donations Cannot Be Split, So Now What?
Update: May 26, 2020
Australian comedian Celeste Barber was one of our most prominent voices bringing global awareness and attention to Australia’s catastrophic bushfire season in 2019/2020.
She appealed across her Facebook and Instagram pages, urging her fans and following to donate to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, to help not only her family who was affected by the bushfires in Eden but all within affected communities. Her following answered the call to the tune of $51.3 million.
With an initial fundraising target of $30,000, Barber was ecstatic and overwhelmed when the number soared well past that within 24 hours. Within 48 hours, she had raised over $20 million.
While the number was significant, there was now a catch.
Barber and her donors hoped that money would go to victims, charities and animal protection groups, however, she named only one charity when she set up the Facebook donation page — the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS).
On Monday, May 25, the Supreme Court ruled that all funds would go to the NSW RFS. The funds cannot be divided across various charities, and the NSW RFS is unable to make a donation to other charities. With this ruling, Barber took to her social media with an official statement.
“It was decided today in the Supreme Court that the money we raised will stay with the NSW RFS,” she wrote.
“I had hoped because it was such a big and ‘unprecedented’ amount, that it could have been distributed to other states and charities, turns out that studying acting at university does not make me a lawmaker.”
Barber went on to say that the “money will be in the very capable, very grateful hands of the NSW RFS.”
So, now that a ruling has been made, what will happen to the funds?
According to Barber, the money will be used for the following:
☆ Equipment and training,
☆ To support rural firefighters injured while fighting
☆ The families of rural firefighters killed while fighting
☆ Mental health training and trauma counselling
☆ Training up of volunteers
☆ Help communities be better prepared for the ongoing threat of bushfires
Barber concluded the statement by thanking the volunteer firefighters who are “rockstars like no others”.
“You will never know the depth and breadth of our gratitude,” she said while adding: “My family say thank you. They felt abandoned and were terrified in the face of all this and you guys made them feel less alone, this is the power of the people.”
While the money will go towards a very worthy cause, there will be people who miss out.
According to the ABC, money raised by Barber “can’t go directly towards bushfire victims”.
“Some donors may have intended or hoped that the money they donated would be used for purposes beyond those which the court has advised are permissible,” NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Slattery said.
This also includes the Australian Red Cross and animal welfare group WIRES.
While there’s no discounting this is an incredible result on Barber’s behalf, perhaps the Supreme Court could have made an exception this time, given an ‘unprecedented amount’ was raised. For many people who donated, the money raised is not going to end up where they thought it would, but it does get tricky when working out where it should go, given only one charity was officially named on the donation page. We just hope this doesn’t affect the way people think about donations towards worthy causes in the future.
If you can, please consider donating to one of the organisations below — your donation will directly benefit bushfire victims, communities and animals affected.
Donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service
Donate to the Victorian Bushfire Relief
Donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund
Donate to the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal
Donate to St Vincent de Paul Society Bushfire Appeal
Donate to WIRES