Celeste Barber speaks during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, February 16, 2020. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAP
Celeste Barber speaks during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, February 16, 2020. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAP

Barber’s perfect response to court blow

Comedian Celeste Barber has responded to a Supreme Court ruling that millions of dollars raised by her bushfire appeal can't go to the interstate charities she was trying to support.

Barber, who was behind the largest charity drive in Facebook's history, joked about the situation in a statement on Monday.

"Turns out that studying acting at university does not make me a lawmaker," she said.

"So the money will be in the very capable, very grateful hands of the NSW RFS. To our volunteer firefighters you are rock stars like no others."

She also took to Instagram to share the news, saying the NSW RFS were doing "incredible things" with the money.

"They're going to be doing trauma counselling, money is going to families who lost firefighters - yes, it's going to injured firefighters as well. It isn't going everywhere we wanted it to.

"I want to give you all the love again because holy shitballs Batman, you made a massive difference, it's crazy."

Barber had nominated the NSW Rural Fire Service as the beneficiary of the campaign which raised $51.3 million at the beginning of the year.

 

 

 

 

On her appeal for help, she wrote: "Please help anyway you can. This is terrifying."

She quickly exceeded her $30,000 goal and wrote on social media that the money would also be distributed to rural fire services in Victoria and South Australia, as well as to victims of the catastrophic bushfires and to wildlife services.

The NSW Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the trustee could not pay money to other charities or rural fire services - whether in NSW or elsewhere in Australia - to assist people or animals affected by bushfires.

"Some donors may have intended or hoped the money they donated would be used for purposes beyond those which the court has advised are permissible," Justice Michael Slattery said.

"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 ... and the court has applied these principles".

Justice Slattery said public and private statements by Barber or the donors didn't bind the trustees and the funds "must be applied only for the purposes set out in the RFS Trust Deed".

The judge said the trustees can, however, set up or contribute to a fund to support rural firefighters injured while firefighting or the families of firies who died.

Such a fund would encourage people to volunteer to contribute to preventing and fighting fires and was permissible under the deed, he found. The trustees can also use the money to provide physical and mental health training, as well as trauma counselling services, to individual NSW RFS firefighters.

 

Celeste Barber speaks during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, February 16, 2020. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAP
Celeste Barber speaks during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, February 16, 2020. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAP

 

They can set up or contribute to a fund to meet the costs for volunteer rural firefighters to undertake courses to improve their skills.

Justice Slattery ordered the parties' legal costs be paid out of the RFS fund. Barber on Monday said she'd hoped the money could be distributed to other states and charities because "it was such a big and unprecedented amount".

RFS NSW spokesman Greg Allan says the service accepts the ruling and appreciates the support from Barber and the wider community.

"With this direction, we can uphold what the trust was set up for in the first place, and that is supporting the volunteer members and their communities," he told AAP on Monday.

The RFS has sought feedback from members regarding how the funds should be spent.

The cash will likely be used to purchase fire fighting equipment including respiratory systems, helmets and tools such as chainsaws.

It will also help improve "network connectivity" in vehicles and upgrade local stations.

- with AAP

Originally published as Barber's perfect response to court blow


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