A court has heard the NSW Rural Fire Service may ask the state’s Attorney-General to relax restrictions so it can distribute the $51.3 million raised by comedian Celeste Barber to bushfire victims.
On Wednesday, the RFS asked the Supreme Court for directions on how it could distribute the money raised by Barber’s bushfire appeal to fire victims and other charities.
Barber launched the record-breaking appeal on Facebook in January after members of her family were affected by bushfires at Eden, on the NSW South Coast.
Her initial goal was to raise $30,000.
Her Facebook fundraising page clearly stated the money was intended for the Trustee for the RFS and Brigades Donation Fund.
The RFS said a deed governing the fund legally stopped it from giving donated money to other charities.
The deed required trustees to use any income to buy and maintain fire-fighting equipment and facilities, provide training and resources and for administrative costs.
The lawyer representing the RFS told the court submissions were ready and that the organisation was keen for the matter to be heard “as soon as possible”.
Earlier this year, the RFS said “the funds have been provided, in whole” but it was keen to distribute the money.
The RFS Commissioner said total donations to the organisation, including Barber’s $51 million, exceeded $100 million.
“We’re incredibly grateful of Celeste’s efforts, rallying people around the world to donate,” an RFS spokesperson said.
“We take the issue of public donations very seriously – and know everyone wants to see the funds distributed quickly and to the right places.”
The ABC reported on Monday that two of the nation’s charities had distributed fewer than half the donations they received to help victims of the Black Summer bushfires.
The Red Cross has distributed 40 per cent of the $200 million it raised since January and blamed a slew of fraudulent applications for the delay.