NSW Minister tears into Red Cross for sitting on bushfire donations while victims suffer


Batemans Bay 2536

At an emotional press conference in Batemans Bay, Member for Bega Andrew Constance came out swinging against the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul for taking too long to distribute money.

Key points:

  • Andrew Constance said money needs to get to people who are “on their knees”.
  • Australian Red Cross has allocated $30 million of the $95 million donated so far
  • Mr Constance challenges charity bosses to come and see the bushfire devastation

“The money is needed now, not sitting in a Red Cross bank account earning interest so they can map out their next three years and do their marketing,” Mr Constance said.

“We need a very real change, very quickly so that the money can get to those who need it most … people are on their knees and we can’t have a drip-feed.”

The Australian Red Cross has received $95 million to date and on Wednesday announced they have allocated $30 million to victims.

A spokesperson said the organisation has paid out 559 grants but has 1,492 open applications.

St Vincent De Paul has raised $12.5 million and spent close to $1.1 million through financial packages for eligible households.

Since the Salvation Army’s bushfire appeal began in November, $43 million has been pledged and $11 million has been received.

From September to now, $7.6 million worth of goods and cash relief has been distributed.



Photo:

Areas of the South Coast were completely wiped out by bushfires. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Over the last two months, people all over the world have donated generously to charity appeals, the Rural Fire Service (RFS), Celeste Barber’s Facebook fundraiser and animal rescue organisations like the RSPCA.

Mr Constance, the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, said it was “gutting” to learn only a third of the money donated to the Red Cross has been distributed when there are people who cannot afford the basics.

He said he had met people who are so traumatised they cannot even leave their properties to register for relief.



Photo:

A group gathers at a burnt out property near Nerrigundah. (Supplied: Facebook)

The Minister, who has admitted he will need trauma counselling, issued a challenge to the managing directors of the three charities to come and see how people are living.

“Meet me in Batemans Bay at 8.00am on Saturday and I’ll drive you the 300 kilometres of devastation on the far south coast.

“I’ll show you the people, you can look them in their eyes and you can see their despair and the destruction that this firebomb brought to our region.

“They better turn up, they better have the guts to show up and be with me … I’ll show them communities which haven’t been on the map, like Kiah, like Nerrigundah, like the back of Bemboka, like Cooma.”

The CEOs of St Vincent De Paul NSW and Canberra, Jack De Groot and Barnie van Wyk, have accepted Mr Constance’s invitation.

The charity said over the past three days Mr van Wyk has overseen the distribution of $200,000 in financial relief to bushfire-affected locals on the south coast.

Over the new year period, areas of the south coast were completely wiped out by bushfires, with devastating losses in Batemans Bay, Conjola Park, Conjola, Cobargo and Mogo.

‘Keen to get the money out’: Red Cross

Red Cross director of Australian services Noel Clement said there was an absolute commitment to getting money in victim’s pockets.

“We are keen to get the money out but we also need to make sure it’s getting where it’s needed,” he said.

Mr Clements admitted some people were waiting weeks for relief money as there were challenges in proving where they lived after losing everything.

“We must manage the money so we aren’t scammed … we want to make sure we are protecting donor’s funds,” he said.

He emphasised that recovery is a “long-term process” and it will take six months for some people to make claims or decide whether to rebuild.



Photo:

A Red Cross worker with a woman in a razed home. (Supplied: Red Cross Australia)

In a statement, the Red Cross said chief executive Judy Slatyer had been on the South Coast last week meeting with residents and had made “several attempts” to contact Mr Constance.

A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said their emergency relief was being distributed at evacuation and relief centres in bushfire zones.

“We understand relief can never happen fast enough for people in these traumatic circumstances. We are working as fast as we can,” they said.

How to protect yourself from scams:

  • Do not donate via fundraising pages that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser
  • Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers
  • Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations
  • Check a charity is registered by searching the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register

Former emergency service commissioner Peter Dunn is a Conjola local helping to lead the community’s recovery efforts and said donations have been “overwhelming” but long-term management was vital.

“I saw this in the Canberra [bushfires] in 2003 … there is enormous generosity when people are seeing images and hearing the stories on the media,” he said.

“But after three-to-six months, other events take over and they catch the public’s imagination and naturally, the donation flow starts to diminish.”

He said this would be around this time when victims began to rebuild.

During the first few months, homes need to be inspected, insurance claims finalised and asbestos cleared from the land, he said.

“But of course by then the focus of the public has gone elsewhere,” Mr Dunn said.

How much has been donated?RecipientAmountCharitiesRed Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery$95mSalvation Army Disaster Appeal$44mVinnies NSW Bushfire Appeals in NSW, Qld, ACT, SA and Victoria$11.5mFoundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (Disaster Resilience & Recovery Fund)$4mGippsland Emergency Relief Fund$3.2mState government and local council appealsVictorian Bushfire Appeal$23.3mSA Bushfire Appeal$4mKangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund$2mLocal fire services and brigadesNew South Wales Rural Fire Service$51mVictoria’s Country Fire Authority$1.7mSouth Australia’s Country Fire Service Foundation $1mAnimal welfare organisationsWildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) Emergency Fund$11mWildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal$170KRSPCA appeals nationally$6.2mOrganisations donating goods and servicesFoodbank Natural Disaster Relief$2mGIVIT – 20,000 items distributed to fire affected communities in NSW and QLD$2.9mTotal money donated (at January 22)$263mGovernment contributionsCommonwealth$2bnNSW (over two years to rebuild infrastructure incl. roads, schools)$1bnVictoria (part of joint funding with the Commonwealth)$86m

External Link:

ABC embed: Tell us your bushfire questions

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news




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