Last month, comedian Celeste Barber raised an astonishing $52 million for bushfire relief, but it seems this money has not yet been distributed, thanks to regulations and red tape.
She started the campaign with the aim of raising money for the NSW Rural Fire Service, but as donations piled up, she announced that she wanted to distribute the funds more widely.
Taking to her Instagram stories, she wrote that she wanted to make sure the money went to people who needed it the most, writing:
“It seems with raising a fuck-tonne of money comes with a fuck-tonne of people telling you what you should do with it. So it’s going to the RFS and it will be distributed out. I’m going to make sure that Victoria gets some, that South Australia gets some, also families of people who have died in these fires, the wildlife.”
The $52 million raised by Celeste Barber has since been transferred to the NSW Rural Fire Service, per the original terms of the fundraiser, but it is still sitting in a trust account.
An issue has arisen thanks to RFS regulations, which state that money given in donations can only go towards things such as training, resources and fire equipment.
This means that, as it currently stands, families and communities affected by fires will not have access to the funds that were raised for them.
Per reports in the Daily Telegraph, lawyers for Celeste Barber and the RFS are meeting to try and work out a solution.
Things appear to be on friendly terms for now, with RFS representative Ben Shepherd explaining to the Tele:
“We want to distribute the money in line with (Barber’s) wishes. Our lawyers will meet (Barber’s) lawyers to try and find a way. No one is being bad about this, it’s all very amicable, and we will try and see her wishes through. But, as it stands, the RFS is the beneficiary and we can’t donate money people gave us to other charities.”
An unnamed source said that Barber is “not happy” about the current situation, but the parties plan to work together to find a solution, then figure out how much money to give to each individual cause.