Celeste Barber calls in lawyers because $ 52 million she raised for forest fires may not go to firefighters
Celeste Barber made history when she raised no less than $ 52 million for the national firefighters in Australia.
But a legal roadblock could mean that the donations never reach the most needy, so the comedian had to call in lawyers to resolve a dispute over the money.
The Australian comedian started Facebook fundraising for the NSW Rural Fire Service and encouraged 1.3 million people from all over the world to donate.
She sent funds to the RFS Brigades Donations Fund, but was not aware that the money sent to this fund is only used for training, resources and fire equipment – not the volunteers and their families or fire-affected communities.
Celeste Barber (pictured on Tom Ford runway show on February 7) broke world records when she reached no less than $ 52 million to help forest fire victims and rescue courageous volunteer firefighters who save lives
Tens of thousands of people have donated more than $ 50 million to Celeste Barber’s bushfire fund after seeing devastation throughout Australia. Depicted is a fire in Hillsville, near Taree
When she discovered that none of the money could be donated to families or shared with other charities, she decided to take legal action.
Mrs Barber’s lawyers will meet with members of the RFS this week to discuss whether the money can be legally distributed, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Urgent discussions are now underway to find ways in which the money can be used for what it was intended for, after Mrs. Barber had promised to donate to a number of different charities in other states.
The $ 52 million has been transferred from GoFundMe to a trust fund of the RFS – but none of it has been spent.
A source said that Mrs. Barber was “frustrated” when she discovered that none of the money could be spent “on the ground.”
“She’s not happy. There were tensions because she wanted the money to go to the troops and the RFS said they decide where the money is spent, “he said.
“Ultimately, there are rules within the RFS that money must be spent on equipment and training. She didn’t want to go there. ”
In its own annual report, the fund stated that it “operates solely to support the volunteer-based fire and rescue activities of the brigades.”
It says these activities include buying and maintaining fire-fighting equipment, as well as providing training and resources in addition to other administrative costs.
The viral Facebook fundraiser raised $ 52 million (photo), but there is fear that it might not go to communities that were destroyed by the fires
This means that the families of dead or wounded firefighters can be left without a penny, just like other voluntary fire brigades.
While Barber initially pledged to the NSW RFS and Brigades Donation Fund, she quickly changed the terms of her call to take into account other states fighting the devastating forest fires.
She broadened the profession and wanted to share the money with Victorian and South Australian firefighting agencies, animal welfare group WIRES, the Red Cross and the widows of fallen firefighters.
Ben Shepherd spokesman insisted that the RFS would honor Mrs. Barber’s wishes and said the lawyers will try to find a way.
“No one is bad about this, it is all very friendly and we will try to make her wishes come true. But as it is now, the RFS is the beneficiary and we cannot donate money that people have given us to other charities, “he said.
Donors hoped that the vital funds would go to helping firefighters (photo) and the communities destroyed by fire
If the lawyers can reach an agreement to distribute the funds to other charities, they must agree how much money goes to each charity.
In 2017/18 the fund received only $ 768,000 in donations, which means that the $ 50 million is completely unprecedented.
Halfway through 2018 it only had $ 2.1 million in the bank.
A spokesperson for NSW RFS said: ‘During this emergency we were humiliated by the great support and extraordinary donations to our Brigade Donations Trust.
“It is important that our members, who know what is best for their brigades and communities, have a say in the use of donated funds.
Celeste Barber (pictured with husband Api Robin in 2018) has organized her lawyers to try and find a solution to share the $ 52 million with other charities
“Once the bush fire emergency has diminished, the NSW RFS will work with senior volunteers and brigades to ensure that donated funds are used for the greatest benefit of our members and their communities.”
Barber’s fundraising organization quickly broke a world record by becoming the world’s largest host on Facebook.
The comedian went to Instagram in January and promised her followers that she would do her best to share the money.
“It seems that collecting a f *** ton of money is accompanied by f *** tons of people telling you what to do with it,” she said.
“So it goes to the RFS and it will be distributed. I’m going to make sure that Victoria gets something, that South Australia gets something, also families of people who died in these fires, nature.
‘I get it, I get it all, I hear you all. I want you to know that, why else raise this money if it doesn’t go to the people who absolutely need it? “
Entire communities have been wiped off the map because of forest fires, such as this one in the NSW city of Bilpin (photo)