From sick children to koalas without homes, Australians can be quick to dig deep – but there was one unexpected plight that received the most money this year.
On Thursday GoFundMe released its annual Giving Report, which shows the fundraisers that won the hearts, minds and wallets of the nation in 2019.
At the top sits the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, which raised more than $1.9 million to “help thirsty koalas” after fires ripped through half of their habitat.
The fundraiser hit so far over the expected limit that the hospital announced it would be distributing drinking stations and establishing a wild breeding program to boost population levels.
But the plight of the iconic animal was surpassed by Israel Folau’s online campaign to raise money for his legal fight against Rugby Australia – after he was fired for posting anti-gay comments online.
The fundraiser was initially held on the GoFundMe platform until the company removed it, saying it does not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.
With backing from the Australian Christian Lobby, Folau’s tally surged past $2 million within three days – higher than every other fundraiser on the GoFundMe list.
Magda Szubanski, who led a diverse group of people in the ‘For Love’ campaign, which was born out of the Folau saga, raised more than $270,000 donations for Twenty10, an LGBTI+ social support group, and the Children’s Cancer Foundation.
She told The New Daily the fundraiser showed people were looking for an outlet to “express moderate beliefs”.
“I’m really of the view, the less said about Folau the better. Let him talk for himself,” she said.
“He took a shot at every group. Most of Australia was on his list.
“Our campaign wasn’t premeditated, it was flung together at the last minute by people who wanted to do something positive.
“What’s important to me is speaking up for a moderate, tolerant society because that way everyone flourishes.
“I think it’s nice that out of something like that, we can generate something that’s not self-serving and benefits people who need it.”
The second biggest GoFundMe fundraiser was former Australian Survivor contest Luke Toki’s appeal to help his two sons, who have autism, and his daughter, who has cystic fibrosis.
Mr Toki went on the popular reality show to raise money for his family but after he was booted off turned to the Australian public – who pitched in more than $550,000 to help the struggling family.
FreeHer, which was run by Sisters Inside Inc, came in third.
It has raised more than $450,000 to pay the warrants of indigenous females locked up in Western Australia for not being able to pay their fines.
In 2017, the Human Rights Law Centre said indigenous women in WA were disproportionately imprisoned for fines they cannot pay.
The campaign, which is still short of its $500,000 target, has helped release more than 100 women from prison.