- The NSW Greens are introducing a bill that will allow Celeste Barber's $51 million fundraiser to go to different bushfire relief efforts.
- The money is directed to the Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund. But this fund can only use the money for equipment and training for the NSW RFS.
- The new bill wants to change the Rural Fires Act so that the money can be used to support families of RFS volunteers injured or killed while on duty, and communities impacted by bushfires.
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The New South Wales Greens are introducing legislation to expand the use of the more than $51 million raised by Celeste Barber's fundraiser for the bushfire relief effort.
The money from Barber's Facebook fundraiser goes to The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund. This Trust can only use the money for training and equipment for the NSW RFS.
At the moment, none of the funds can be used to support volunteer firefighters, their families, bushfire affected communities or animal welfare organisations. The new bill proposed by the NSW Greens wants to change that.
The Rural Fires Amendment Bill 2020 aims to amend the Rural Fires Act so that any donations received by the Trustee fund from November 1 2019 to February 1 2020 can be used not only for the Trust, but for other efforts as well.
These efforts include supporting families of any RFS volunteer killed or injured while on duty, supporting communities and individuals impacted by bushfires, and helping animals injured or displaced by the fires.
“We want to ensure the intentions of the more than one million donors are respected and this record donation is able to be used to do more than offset government expenditure on the RFS," Greens MP and justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said in a statement.
While Barber has mentioned that she would bring the matter of the funds to the Supreme Court, Shoebridge added that it is "unlikely to be fixed by any court application."
"It really needs a legislative fix," he said in a statement.
Shoebridge told Business Insider Australia the Trust has a very clear purpose and therefore there's no failure in it. "There's no legal basis for the court to intervene and direct the monies for an alternate purpose," he said.
And based on the advice Shoebridge received from legal experts, he said the Supreme Court route is "likely to be lengthy, expensive and unsuccessful".
Shoebridge also said he reached out to Celeste's agents but hasn't received word back from them.
"I made contact with Celeste's agents last week and advised them about our intention, and said we were very open to further discussion," he said.
Shoebridge further explained that the first step of the legislative process is to give notice of the changes the Greens are proposing before the bill is drafted.
“We are giving notice of the law change today and we are open to frank discussions with other parties and Celeste Barber on the final drafting of the bill," Shoebridge said in a statement.