Category Archives: Generosity

Australian Bushfire Donations

The surprise with the fires in Australia was how much money has been spent to assist those homeless. Yet the irony is that 116,000 homeless in Australia are not seen in the same light.

All people in crisis should be assisted 100%. The issue is when we decide who is deserving who is not.

On a positive note what was great to see was our country coming together to help each other, which is our true nature.

To change the climate we must learn our true nature which is to respond to the human crisis not the market as a first responder.

What were the costs involved?

Bushfire donations: where will the millions that have been given be spent?

NSW RFS chief Shane Fitzsimmons says members will be consulted about how to allocate between competing priorities, such as bushfire victims and conditions for volunteer firefighters

Ben Doherty @bendohertycorro

Tue 7 Jan 2020 11.22 AEDT First published on Tue 7 Jan 2020 04.00 AEDT

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Firefighters extinguish a blaze by the side of a road
Donations in the tens of millions of dollars have poured into Australian fire services, with NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying the ‘extraordinary generosity will make a massive difference’. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The NSW Rural Fire Service says it will consult its members before deciding how to spend the extraordinary influx of bushfire donations, as it tries to weigh the intentions of those who have given money.

The head of the RFS, Shane Fitzsimmons, said allocating the “extraordinary” influx of donations from the public, now into the tens of millions of dollars, would be a challenge for the organisation, but that it was a “nice challenge to have”.

He pledged to spend the donations “where it was intended”, directing the money towards fire victims as well as the fire service itself.

The RFS, which has been the main focus of donations in the wake of the bushfires, is primarily funded by the state government, as Michael Eburn, an expert in emergency management at the Australian National University, has noted.

“People should understand, before they make their donation, that fundamentally they are making a donation to the NSW government,” Eburn wrote on Monday.

The online fundraising campaign run by comedian Celeste Barber has alone raised more than $33m, which will be distributed, not only to the NSW’s RFS, but its interstate equivalents, including Victoria’s Country Fire Authority and South Australia’s Country Fire Service.

Millions more have flowed to the RFS through private donations and other fundraising efforts.

Fitzsimmons said the depth and breadth of donations “reflects the best we’ve got in humanity”.

“I think it’s quite extraordinary and extremely generous,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said the organisation did not yet know how it would spend the donations, and that allocating the additional money would be a challenge, “but a nice challenge to have”.

“We will consult with members, we will make sure we understand firstly, what was the intention behind people contributing to that fund: was it to go to disaster victims, was it to go to make better arrangements and better conditions for volunteers? We will need to target the money to where people intended it to go.

“We need to make sure that we get something tangible, and we get some real benefit out of this, and we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that that extraordinary generosity will make a massive difference.”

The amount committed to the NSW RFS donations fund has dwarfed the donations raised in previous years.

The most recent donations fund annual report

from 2017-18 – showed gifts of $768,044 to the RFS, of which $546,000 was donated to individual brigades, and $222,000 to the central fund for distribution. The largest single donation was $25,000.

The central donations fund exists “solely for the purpose of supporting the volunteer-based fire and emergency service activities of the brigades”. It is unclear how the money will, or could, be divided with other fire services or with bushfire victims, if it has been donated to the Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donations Fund. But the trust deed allows the trustees to disburse funds as recommended by the RFS executive committee.

The service is also running dedicated fundraising appeals for the families of volunteer firefighters Samuel McPaul, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, killed fighting fires this bushfire season.


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The NSW RFS budget for this financial year is $424m, funded by the NSW state government.

Writing in The Big Smoke Australia, Eburn said donating to the RFS was commendable given the vital work it performs, but stressed that the organisation was a government funded and run agency.

“The RFS is not an organisation run by volunteers and funded by community donations,” he wrote. “The RFS is not a volunteer organisation, it is a government organisation that relies on volunteers.

“No doubt the trustees, the RFS, and brigades that benefit … and the trustees of the fund, will do their best to ensure that it is well spent to advance the RFS abilities in coming years but people should understand, before they make their donation, that fundamentally they are making a donation to the NSW government.”

In the wake of devastating fires in that state, the Victorian government has established a new government agency – Bushfire Recovery Victoria – to coordinate the state’s fire recovery. The agency, headed by former police chief commissioner Ken Lay, has been given a budget of $50m.

Lay said the new agency would work with local communities to guide their own recoveries.

“When disasters happen in local communities, the answers are generally in their community, so I’ll be looking for local people to give local advice, local resources to address these issues.”

Premier Daniel Andrews asked those wanting to help not to donate clothing, goods, or food, but money to the state government-run bushfire appeal.

“I know it’s tough to watch this all unfold and feel helpless. I know a lot of people want to get stuck in and lend a hand. But it’s important to remember that the emergency relief effort is being run by experienced organisations, and they don’t have space to sort or store donations.

“If you want to help, please consider donating to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Every dollar raised will go towards immediate support for those who have lost everything.

“Victorians have been incredibly generous already. After just a few days, the appeal is sitting at $2m, and our government will match the current amount raised.”