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Celeste Barber's $51m Bushfire Fund Can't Be Distributed To Other Charities

Celeste Barber's $51m Bushfire Fund Can't Be Distributed To Other Charities

The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled against sharing the money with other states and charities

Tom Wood

Tom Wood

The AU$51 million raised by comedian Celeste Barber during her bushfire relief campaign cannot be distributed to other charities outside New South Wales, but can be used to help injured firefighters, the NSW Supreme Court has confirmed.

Barber nominated NSW Rural Fire Service and the Brigades Donation Fund to be the beneficiaries of the AU$51.3 million (£27.5m) that she raised through the record-breaking Facebook fundraiser in January.

However, the documentation that governs the trust states that funds from charity can only be used to purchase or maintain equipment, perform training, or pay for administrative costs.

This means that charities such as the Red Cross won't be eligible to receive any of this vast fund of cash, because the fundraiser explicitly said it was intended for the Trustee of the NSW RFS.

Barber's fundraiser broke Facebook records.

However, the Supreme Court did agree that money can be shared with the families of firefighters who were injured or killed in the bushfires that ravaged Australia at the beginning of the year.

It can also be used to pay for trauma counselling for firefighters affected by the terrible sights they've seen during their efforts to tackle the fires.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Slattery explained: "Some donors may have intended or hoped that the money they donated would be used for purposes beyond those which the court has advised are permissible.

"Despite the trustees' wish to honour those intentions or hopes the law provides principles that ensure a degree of certainty in the application of trust funds including charitable trust funds, and the court has applied these principles, and giving its advice and these reasons."

In making his decision, Slattery called Barber a 'public spirited citizen' and hailed her fundraiser as a 'spectacular success'.

The bushfires devastated Australia earlier this year.

He also noted that the Rural Fire Service wanted to see the money shared around the country, but the laws of the trust forbid that.

This means that - as well as other states firefighters - animal welfare charities such as WIRES will not benefit.

Barber herself had hoped the money could be shared beyond the 'very capable, very grateful' hands of the Rural Fire Service, but added: "[It] turns out that studying acting at university does not make me a lawmaker.

"To our volunteer firefighters you are rockstars like no others. You will never know the depth and breadth of our gratitude."

NSW RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said the service will be putting the money to good use, regardless.

He said: "The important thing is for the people that donated money to the RFS, they can be assured we're going to spend that just on making sure volunteers are better equipped and able to do their job better.

"We want to make sure that the funds that have come in, that they have longevity and we can make sure we can look after firefighters and their families many years into the future."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News, Money, Animals, Australia