Celeste Barber responds to Supreme Court ruling on $51m bushfire donations
Comedian Celeste Barber has responded to a Supreme Court ruling that millions of dollars raised in her bushfire appeal cannot be split for charities she was trying to support.
Barber’s bushfire fundraiser raked in $51.3 million in January, rising past her initial target of $30,000 to become Facebook’s largest-ever charity drive.
She directed the appeal towards NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund, but many donors expected the money to go to victims and other charities such as the Australian Red Cross and WIRES.
The NSW Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the donations could not go towards other charities or interstate rural fire services.
“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,” said NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Slattery.
But he said honouring those wishes would violate the law around how trusts operate.
Justice Slattery ruled the money could be given to families of fallen firefighters and used for trauma counselling as well as equipment, training and administrative costs. But it could not be diverted towards other fire services, animal welfare groups and other causes.
Barber addressed the ruling in a statement on social media. “I had hoped, because it was such a big and ‘unprecedented’ amount, that it could have been distributed to other states and charities,” she wrote.
“Turns out that studying acting at university does not make me a lawmaker.
“So the money will be in the very capable, very grateful hands of the NSW RFS.”
She thanked the donors “from all walks of life that heard us and helped us, whether it was a hand full of gold coins or a big fat cheque”.
An update pic.twitter.com/OtfV1G3iR1
— Celeste barber (@celestebarber_) May 25, 2020
NSW RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said he was grateful for Barber’s fundraising efforts and would make sure the money was put to good use.
“We’re going to be very transparent and actually say exactly what every dollar has been spent on,” he told Sunrise.
“There will be no secrets and there will be no administrative costs taken from this money.”
Rogers also told ABC Radio Sydney there was “no animosity” between the RFS and Barber’s team, which he was in contact with regularly.
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