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All the big business, CEOs donating millions to bushfire relief

Jessica Yun
(Source: Getty, AAP)
(Source: Getty, AAP)

While bushfires around Australia continue to burn, big businesses have been pulling their weight and making significant donations to support the recovery process.

Retailers are donating their proceeds, celebrities have used their influence to raise greater awareness and encourage others to give and a string of Australia’s wealthiest have pledged money to support bushfire relief efforts.

Here are some of the business tycoons and companies that have added their name to the list of donors:

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest: $70 million

Mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest announced today that he would donate $70 million from his not-for-profit organisation Minderoo Foundation to the bushfire crisis.

In what is the largest public donation from a single individual or organisation, the multi-million gift will be divvied up as follows: $10 million to get specialist volunteers from Western Australia into action; another $10 million to immediate bushfire relief funding; and $50 million investment to support the development of a long-term blueprint for fire resilience.

“With incredible courage and determination, Australians have united to help those devastated by these bushfires,” Forrest said in a statement from the Minderoo Foundation.

Philanthropist Nicola Forrest and husband Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest. (AAP Image/Supplied by University of WA) NO ARCHIVING
Philanthropist Nicola Forrest and husband Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest. (AAP Image/Supplied by University of WA)

His wife Nicola added that those impacted by fires will need both practical and emotional support.

“They will need time to grieve their loss and to deal with the trauma of the experience and they will need practical help to start the process of rebuilding their lives,” she said.

“Beneath the ash, memories still exist, and these should be treasured.”

Big Four Banks: $8.7 million in total

The Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac have each pledged at least $1 million to support bushfire relief.

NAB led the pack with a $5 million donation, while Westpac has upped their donation to total $1.7 million. CBA and ANZ are donating $1 million apiece.

Tech CEOs: $300,000 in total

When Hollywood actor Russell Crowe set up an online auction for his Rabbitohs cap on Twitter to raise funds for NSW firefighters, tech billionaire and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes sprung into action with his $100,000 winning bid – a figure that was then matched by fellow co-founder Scott Farquhar.

Mike Cannon-Brookes (L) and Scott Farquhar (R), co-founders and co-CEOs of Atlassian and 2016 honorees on Fortune's 40 Under 40 list, pose for a photo on October 13, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
Mike Cannon-Brookes (L) and Scott Farquhar (R), co-founders and co-CEOs of Atlassian. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Fortune)

US software company Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith was also inspired to donate with a similar donation.

Business Council of Australia: $25 million trust fund for children of firefighters killed

The big business lobby group will establish the Australian Volunteer Support trust, which helps the families of any volunteer who has lost their life battling the bushfires.

The trust, effective from 1 July 2019, will aim to raise a sum of $25 million from donations that will go to responding to the needs of affected families.

“The trust will be a permanent and ongoing fund to support the children of volunteers who have died fighting these fires and in future disasters,” said BCA president Tim Reed.

“The primary focus of the trust will be on supporting children to adulthood with a particular emphasis on their education.”

BCA also established a Community Building Initiative, which will act as a first point of contact for companies to coordinate help and resources to where they’re most needed in assisting with rebuilding efforts and also interface with federal and state authorities.

Facebook: $1.25 million

In a post on Facebook, the social media juggernaut’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg announced that the company would donate up to $1.25 million to Australian bushfire recovery efforts.

The company has donated $250,000 to the Red Cross, and will also match up to $1 million in donations made to US not-for-profit crowdfunding platform GlobalGiving.

Mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto: $2 million

The BHP Foundation will be donating $2 million to the Red Cross, while Rio Tinto has upped their contribution to the charity from an initial $250,000 to $1 million.

James Packer/Crown Resorts: $5 million

Billionaire businessman James Packer and his casino company Crown Resorts pledged $1 million in November last year – and announced earlier this week they will be donating another $4 million on top of that, with the total amount to be split evenly between the billionaire and the casino.

Tycoon James Packer (L) and Crown Resorts executive chairman John Alexander arrive for the Crown Resorts Annual General Meeting at Crown Towers in Melbourne on October 26, 2017.
Tycoon James Packer (L) and Crown Resorts executive chairman John Alexander. (Photo: MAL FAIRCLOUGH/AFP via Getty Images)

NSW’s Rural Fire Service and Victoria’s Country Fire Authority will receive $1 million each, with the rest to support other relief services and wildlife charities.

“My family and Crown are eager to do more and the best way we can help, is to significantly increase our donation,” said Packer.

“We hope these funds play a small part in helping our firefighters, and easing the suffering of people who have lost their homes and the poor wildlife caught up in the blaze. We just want to do our bit.”

Packer recently settled a long-standing dispute with the taxation office for a sum less than the $400 million-plus sought by the ATO, The Australian reported.

Gina Rinehart

The mining mogul came under fire by Australian comedian Celeste Barber, whose Facebook fundraiser has raised nearly $50 million at the time of writing, on social media.

However, a spokesperson for Rinehart said she prefers to donate privately.

“She added privately to the collection for firefighting raised at her home last night, at which approx. 150 guests were present,” said the spokesperson.

Anthony Pratt: $1 million

Packaging and paper company Anthony Pratt has pledged $1 million to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.

Chevron: $1 million

Energy company Chevron Australia announced it was donating $1 million to the Red Cross to support disaster relief and recovery efforts.

Justin Hemmes: $500,000

A photo of Justin Hemmes
Justin Hemmes at the 2020 Gourmet Traveller National Restaurant Awards on August 21, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

Pub empire Merivale boss Justin Hemmes pledged $500,000 to the NSW Rural Fire Service after he witnessed first-hand the firefighters in action.

Hemmes owns a home near Jervis Bay in NSW’s South Coast, which has been impacted by the firefighters, and said RFS water bombers and helicopters were like “angels of the sky”.

“These guys are heroes ... they were working at least 12 hour shifts protecting us and protecting these communities and without them it would have been even more catastrophic than it is,” he told SMH.

“To me they are the superheroes of today and I saw it first hand, and that’s why I am so moved.”

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