Are bushfire fundraisers pushing other charities to the brink?

Adelaide 5000

Charitable organisations around Australia say they are seeing a major decline in their funds due to the many generous donations made to those affected by Australia’s recent bushfires.

Key points:

  • The Little Heroes Foundation chairman says donations have ground to a halt
  • He says many Australian charities are struggling due to the many bushfire appeals
  • A woman diagnosed with cancer in 2017 says charities provide vital support

Adelaide-based charity Little Heroes Foundation, which helps seriously ill children, is on the brink of closing its doors after 24 years of operating, with donations coming to a complete standstill.

It comes after strong financial support for victims of South Australia’s recent bushfire disasters, as well as victims of the bushfire disasters in Victoria, New South Wales and Victoria.

Little Heroes chairman Chris McDermott said he was holding onto a sliver of hope the charity would make it through, but he was not sure what the future looked like.

“It’s probably the least confident I’ve ever been, but again, the reality is the families challenged by serious illness, whether it be cancer or other serious illness, they’re still there and they still need help,” Mr McDermott said.

He said since December, donations and contributions from the public had ground to a halt.

“The way the Australian public have rallied to the [bushfire] cause has been one of the most inspirational things I have ever witnessed,” he said.

“On the flip side, it has impacted a lot of other charities, which you sort of understand, but for us that aren’t government funded it’s made a huge impact.

“Because we’re not government funded we rely on every dollar we make through events or donations and that has come to an absolute standstill. It’s pretty tough times.


CFS crews work with locals during the Cudlee Creek blaze in the Adelaide Hills. (Facebook: Eden Hills CFS)

“All charities in terms of donations at the moment are finding it difficult and it’s certainly our toughest time in our 24 years.”

Five in six Australians give financially to charities or not-for-profit organisations, with 20 per cent of people donating once a month, according to the Australian Community Trends Report, published last year.

According to the report, charities recorded a total revenue of $142.8 billion in the past year.

Charities a necessary support for sick Australians

Jeanne Moloney-Nicholls, 58, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2017.

She said her experience showed why supporting charities was vital.

“I’ve had a double mastectomy, 11 lymph nodes, my brachial nerve all removed. I’ve had six months of chemotherapy where I lost all of my hair, my eyebrows, eyelashes,” she said.

“I had 25 radiation sessions, which I was pretty much burnt severely, bright red, blistered burns, which to me was probably the most horrific part of the journey.”

After her treatment was complete, Ms Moloney-Nicholls moved to Adelaide, where she has been visiting the Cancer Care Centre.


Jeanne Moloney-Nicholls says charities like Cancer Care Centre “find it very hard to exist without the kindness and generosity of the donors”. (ABC News: Brittany Evins)

The not-for-profit organisation, which is funded through a combination of memberships and donations from the public, provides cancer patients with a wide range of complementary care to enhance their wellbeing.

Ms Moloney-Nicholls said the service was beneficial for people with cancer.

“It’s all the ongoing side effects that I don’t think people are aware of,” she said.

“They think once you have surgery that’s it, you must be back to normal, but you have to find your new normal and it’s not who you used to be.

“Places like the Cancer Care Centre would find it very hard to exist without the kindness and generosity of the donors.”