Frustrated volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help those immediately affected by Australia’s bushfire crisis claim larger charities have abandoned those in need.
As the tally of donations contributed to the current bushfire crisis approaches half-a-billion dollars, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul have been accused of failing to distribute the wealth quick enough.
Contributors to the Red Cross on Thursday night received an email from the charity slamming ‘misleading information in the media’ about how it was using donations.
Founder of the National Homeless Collective Donna Stolzenberg has lashed out at charities that are withholding funds from those desperately in need
The National Homeless Collective delivers two full pallets of school items for kids in Victoria’s Gippsland region, which has been devastated by bushfires
Residents defend a property from a bushfire at Hillsville near Taree, 350km north of Sydney in November. Charities that have collected millions from across the globe have come under fire themselves for failing to help those in need quick enough
It followed criticism from Member for Bega Andrew Constance, who came out on Thursday swinging against the ‘big three’ for taking too long to distribute money.
‘The money is needed now, not sitting in a Red Cross bank account earning interest so they can map out their next three years and do their marketing,’ he said.
‘We need a very real change, very quickly so that the money can get to those who need it most … people are on their knees and we can’t have a drip-feed.’
The Red Cross has told contributors it had committed $30 million ‘right now’ to help people whose homes were destroyed to meet immediate needs.
‘Our emergency grants program opened two weeks ago – when we first knew we had the funds to make it happen – and as of today we’ve paid almost 700 grants,’ the email stated.
The Red Cross claimed it had further been paying an average of $1 million a day in grants.
‘That’s because of the superhuman efforts of our team, who’ve been processing applications, weeding out fakes and bots, calling people to collect information, and notifying people that money is on the way,’ it stated.
On Thursday, the ABC reported St Vincent De Paul had raised $12.5 million and spent close to $1.1 million through financial packages for eligible households.
The Liberal member for Bega and Transport Minister Andrew Constance lashed out at ‘the big three’ charities this week for taking too long to distribute cash
Philip Hine surveys the ruins of his property on January 14, 2020 in Wytaliba, Australia. Many people in fire affected regions have struggled to get aid fast enough
The remains of burnt out buildings are seen along main street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on December 31 last year
Since the Salvation Army’s bushfire appeal began in November, $11 million had been received, with $7.6 million worth of goods and cash relief distributed.
On Friday, founder of the National Homeless Collective Donna Stolzenberg lashed out at charities that were withholding funds from those desperately in need.
‘Celeste Barber raised $50 million but while all eyes were focused on her fundraiser no one was getting any actual help,’ she said.
‘We were getting emergency essentials out to people as soon as the fires hit and we did it without a cent of government money or the pulling power celebrity status has.’
Ms Stolzenberg, who helped raise $15,000 for the funeral of murdered homeless woman Courtney Herron, told Daily Mail Australia while some sat on their hands, others were doing the heavy lifting.
‘We don’t wait. We just get right in there and help,’ she said.
‘We called David McNamara (CEO of Foodbank Victoria) and two days later we had the first two pallets of goods loaded up and distributed by the army. Two days after that we did the same for Foodbank in QLD and they distributed our goods right through QLD, NSW and ACT.
‘We’re an unfunded charity from a Melbourne yet we can reach more people in immediate need than these big charities with millions of dollars? How does that work?’
National Homeless Collective founder Donna Stolzenberg (right) has been hard at work helping those directly in need of assistance from the bushfires across the country
National Homeless Collective founder Donna Stolzenberg gave out over 2000 sleeping bags for rough sleepers last year and about 600 food packs. She received no government funding and is fed-up with money not going to those in need
Ms Stolzenberg said she was achieving more with her team of six women, whom she took off the street, than any of the big three charities.
‘Today I’m putting together six new bikes for kids living in hotels because they have no houses and no way to ride to school now. Tomorrow I’m putting together 40 school bags for kids living in cars and on the streets or in refuges,’ she said.
‘Last week I made 21 camp packs for kids living in crisis accommodation so they could go in a camp and as of Thursday I’ll have delivered 27,000 pairs of underwear and socks to fire affected areas right across the country including to the fire rescue folk and SES plus 6000 toiletries and sanitary packs. That’s just one week.’
Next month Ms Stolzenberg will open a cafe to employ people with disabilities and autism so they can have a decent job that pays well and treats them with respect.
‘We’ve sent literally tonnes of items with no funding and no millions in aid. I’m a grass roots charity. I get no funding. If I can do all this why the hell cant they?’ she said.
‘People need help now. Not when the next disaster hits. If that ever happens they’ll donate more, they always do.’