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Lawyers meet to break Celeste Barber’s $52 million gridlock

Anastasia Santoreneos
·4-min read
Lawyers for Celeste and the NSW RFS will meet to determine how the donation can be split. Source: Getty
Lawyers for Celeste and the NSW RFS will meet to determine how the donation can be split. Source: Getty

Lawyers for Celeste Barber and the NSW Rural Fire Service will meet this week to determine how the comedian’s $52 million Facebook fundraiser will be used.

Barber’s bushfire appeal, which initially aimed to gather $30,000, was to be donated to the Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donations Fund, for firefighting equipment and training - and not victims, volunteers’ families or affected communities.

Once the appeal surpassed $50 million, however, Barber indicated she would divide the donations amongst the states’ fire services.

Yahoo Finance breaks down how Facebook fundraisers work, and what the possible outcomes are:

Celeste Barber’s Facebook fundraiser

Barber initiated the fundraiser on 3 January 2020, stating she was raising money for the NSW RFS.

“I'm raising money for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate a lot or a little. Anything helps. Thank you for your support,” she said.

The comedian, who boasts 6.8 million followers, reached $1 million just four days after the fund started.

Once the funds reached $50 million, Barber took to Instagram to reveal how she intended to use the funds.

"So it's going to the RFS and it will be distributed out,” Barber said on her Instagram in January.

"So I'm gonna make sure that Victoria gets some, that South Australia gets some, also families of people who have died in these fires, the wildlife.

"I get it, I get it all, I'm hearing you all. I want you to know that, otherwise why raise this money if it's not going to go to the people who absolutely need it."

Where can the money actually go?

On February 16, it was revealed the donations had been directed to the NSW RFS Brigade alone - and they could not be used for anything other than fire fighting equipment and training.

This is because the NSW RFS trust which Barber nominated explicitly details what it can be used for, which is: “for the purpose of supporting the volunteer-based fire and emergency service…in order to enable or assist them to meet the costs of purchasing and maintaining firefighting equipment and facilities, providing training and resources and/or to otherwise meet the administrative expense”.

NSW RFS spokesperson Ben Shepherd told the Daily Telegraph that the RFS wanted to distribute the money in line with Barber’s wishes, but that, as it stands, it’s unsure if it can.

“No one is being bad about this, it’s all very amicable, and we will try and see her wishes through,” Shepherd said.

“But, as it stands, the RFS is the beneficiary and we can’t donate money people gave us to other charities.”

Aussies’ uproar at donation fail

On the Facebook page of the fundraiser, Aussies have expressed their frustrations at the situation, saying Barber misled them.

“I'd say if your fundraiser starts hitting the 1, then 2, then 10, 20 50 million dollar mark, you make it your priority to know EXACTLY where and how this money can be spent,” one user commented.

“Surely this is the sort of thing you check before taking $50M off of people,” another added.

But others have come to the comedian’s support, saying it’s the responsibility of the donator to check where their funds are being distributed.

“Whilst it is best to donate to places that have the infrastructure in place to deal with large donations and crises, we HAVE to do our research,” one said.

“I agree that there were misleading statements made on the page about where the money would be shared, but she is no scam artist, she isn't pocketing this money, her intentions were to raise money to help people. Let's not forget that,” another said.

More to come.

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