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Donor hopes dashed: How $51 million in bushfire relief can be spent

  • May 26 2020
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Donor hopes dashed: How $51 million in bushfire relief can be spent

By Grace Ormsby
May 26 2020

Comedian Celeste Barber’s mammoth $51 million fundraising effort will remain in the hands of the NSW Rural Fire Service despite a push for donations to be split among state services still reeling from Australia’s horror bushfire season.

NSW Rural Fire Service

Donor hopes dashed: How $51 million in bushfire relief can be spent

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  • May 26 2020
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Comedian Celeste Barber’s mammoth $51 million fundraising effort will remain in the hands of the NSW Rural Fire Service despite a push for donations to be split among state services still reeling from Australia’s horror bushfire season.

NSW Rural Fire Service

Injured firefighters will be among the recipients of Ms Barber’s $51 million fundraising campaign, after yesterday’s ruling that only the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) could benefit from the donations.

Ms Barber kicked off the fundraising campaign back in January, when she nominated the NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund as the recipient of charitable donations on her Facebook page.

As donations grew, the comedian had indicated that money would be divvied up between the states.

However, the deed that governs that trust only allows for donated money to be spent on purchasing and maintaining equipment, training and administrative expenses – a matter which Ms Barber and the NSW RFS and Brigades Donations Fund sought advice on through the NSW Supreme Court.

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Acknowledging that some donors hoped that the money they donated would be used to support other charitable organisations, and that the trustees hoped to honour those intentions, the presiding judge, Justice Slattery said this unfortunately cannot be the case.

While money could not be given to other charities or rural fire services, the court advised that the money could be used to set up or contribute to a fund to support rural firefighters injured while firefighting, or the families of rural firefighters killed while fighting.

Using the donations, volunteer firefighters can also be provided with physical and mental health training and resources as well as trauma counselling services.

The RFS will also be able to set up or contribute to a fund to meet training and skill-related costs for volunteers.

In response to the ruling, Ms Barber said the money “will be in the very capable, very grateful hands of the NSW RFS”.

She re-stated how she had originally hoped that “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,” she wrote.

“It will be used for equipment and training, to support rural firefighters injured while fighting, the families of rural firefighters killed while fighting, along with mental health training and trauma counselling.”

Calling the volunteer firefighters “rockstars like no others”, the comedian wanted “to thank everyone around the world who donated”.

“From the kids who smashed their piggy banks open, to the single mums that gave what they could.”

“To everyone from all walks of life that heard us and helped us, whether it was a handful of gold coins or a big fat cheque. This is all because of you guys,” Ms Barber continued.

Donor hopes dashed: How $51 million in bushfire relief can be spent
NSW Rural Fire Service
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About the author

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Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

About the author

Grace is a journalist on Momentum Media's nestegg. She enjoys being able to provide easy to digest information and practical tips for Australians with regard to their wealth, as well as having a platform on which to engage leading experts and commentators and leverage their insight.

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