Celeste Barber and the Rural Fire Service go to court over how the $52million she raised for bushfire relief can be spent – as desperate families are DENIED access to the much-needed funds
- Celeste Barber raised $52million for the Rural Fire Service with a fundraiser
- But she did not know money sent to their fun can only be used for equipment
- Now she is locked in a legal battle to get the money to other charities
Celeste Barber and the Rural Fire Service will seek guidance from the Supreme Court about how the $52million she raised for bushfire relief can be used.
The Australian comedian started a Facebook fundraiser for the NSW Rural Fire Service and encouraged 1.3million people from across the globe to donate.
She directed funds to the RFS Brigades Donations Fund, but was unaware money sent to this fund is only used on training, resources and fire equipment – not the volunteers and their families or fire-affected communities.
Celeste Barber (pictured at a bushfire relief concert last weekend) and the Rural Fire Service will seek guidance from the Supreme Court about how the $52million she raised for bushfire relief can be used
Barber then told her 6.8million Instagram followers that the money would be donated to a range of different charities in other states.
When she found that none of the money could be donated to families or shared with other charities in need, she decided to take legal action.
The Rural Fire Service says its wants some of the money to be donated to other charities but cannot find a way to do this within the law.
Barber said on Instagram on Thursday that judges from the Supreme Court of New South Wales were offering advice.
‘We’re on to it – so much so – I know the f. king Supreme Court might be throwing their backs into it a little bit to find out if we can distribute it,’ she said.
‘We’re not f. king around … we’re taking it really seriously.’
However, one charity law expert told the Daily Telegraph: ‘They are just wasting their time’.
Charlotte O’Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O’Dwyer, with Andrew’s wife Melissa at his funeral
The $52million has been transferred from GoFundMe to a trust fund run by the RFS – but none of it has been spent. Pictured: RFS firefighters
The $52million has been transferred from GoFundMe to a trust fund run by the RFS – but none of it has been spent.
On its own annual report, the fund said it operates ‘solely for the purpose of supporting the volunteer-based fire and emergency service activities of the brigades’.
It says these activities included buying and maintaining firefighting equipment, as well as providing training and resources among other administrative expenses.
This means the families of dead or injured firefighters could be left without a cent, as could other volunteer fire brigades.
While Ms Barber initially pledged to the NSW RFS and Brigades Donation Fund, she quickly changed the terms of her appeal to take into account other states battling the devastating bushfires.
She widened the appeal 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.
A spokesman for the NSW RFS said: ‘What has become clear is that the issue is very complex and the options are limited. This is because there are a number of laws which limit how funds can be distributed.
‘At this stage, it’s planned to seek the direction of the Supreme Court to seek some clarity on how the funds can be used. This is likely to take some time.’
Celeste Barber (pictured at Tom Ford runway show on February 7) made history when she raised a staggering $52million to help victims of bushfires and brave volunteer firefighters saving lives