There’s not really much good news to come out of the Australian bushfires, especially when the PM is botching it left and right. Having said that, one of the bright spots of news has been Celeste Barber’s wildly successful fundraiser for the trust for the NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund.
At the time of writing, the Celeste Barber’s fundraiser has banked nearly $48 million, making it the largest fundraiser in Facebook history, which is absolutely ridiculous considering that the campaign has only been up for less than a week.
This is fantastic news by almost all measures and the response from all involved has been a bright spot in the charred wasteland of bushfire news.
But in a final twist that shows why we can’t have nice things even in the face of terribleness, there’s a possibility that not a cent of this money from Celeste Barber’s fundraiser will go to any of the volunteers or families firefighters.
According to The Australian, legal experts state that the NSW RSF’s trust – which is where the donations from Celete’s fundraiser is going to – only allows spending on training, resources and equipment for the RSF.
This means the money raised can’t be spent on volunteers, families of injured or deceased firefighters, and other organisations, which includes interstate volunteer firefighting brigades. Talk about kicking a country while it’s already down and on fire.
Having said that though, a spokesperson for Celeste has confirmed to The Australian that she’s in “talks with the RFS” regarding the distribution of the funds.
This is all an unfortunate hurdle but it’s not the first time a big fundraiser has been caught up in a legal minefield, even if this is one that was done with the best of intentions. Still, there’s still a chance this could all work out well in the end.
In addition to the ongoing chats between Celeste Barber and the RFS, Paypal could play a part in how the donations from the fundraiser will be distributed as the money is being held by the company’s Giving Fund Australia before it gets transferred to the RFS.
The Australian reports that Paypal could negotiate with both Celeste and the RFS over whether some of the donations could be distributed to those other than the RFS before the money is transferred over, so it’s not quite over just yet.
A last resort would be an urgent reform to the NSW Rural Fires Act to allow the RFS to distribute donations to volunteers and other organisations, which is a move NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge has called for and highlighted the fact that a heap of donors who donated to Celete’s fundraiser would not have completely understood the conditions of the RFS trust.
It all ultimately remains to be seen how this all shakes out but here’s hoping it ends in a win-win for all because Australia has had a rough time of it lately with the bushfires and seeing Celete Barber’s record-setting fundraiser reach a victorious end would be a nice salve to all the awful stuff that’s been happening.
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