Update: Standards needed for bushfire funds

The Guardian 28/1/20, has a good article by Audette Exel, who says we should learn from the UN experience in dealing with disasters: Kindness is not enough: Australia needs a strategic national response to the bushfires

She says we need a coordinated, national response based four principles:

  • Humanity – everyone shall be treated humanely and equally.
  • Neutrality – support must be given in an impartial and independent manner.
  • Impartiality – non-discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religion, political opinion or class. Critically, this principle provides that support must be based on need – not for example on donor-led assumptions or political calculations.
  • Independence – maintaining autonomy from political, economic, military or other calculations and acting in accordance with humanitarian principles.

We agree.

The welcome flood of donations for people who were impacted by bushfires exposes major gaps in planning, management and distribution of what is said to be over $600 million.

However there are no guidelines for how and where monies should be disbursed, some fundraisers were not registered by the ACNC as charities and could be up for big fines, and there are no rules around what percentage of funds can be used for administration.

Huge sums were raised by individuals and celebrities – comedian Celeste Barber raised an astounding $51 million – possibly more than is needed for the NSW firefighter equipment for which the fund was established.

The Victorian State Government urged people to donate to large charities but charities like the Red Cross (which raised $95 million) are making up their own rules about giving over the money.  Their CEO says it may be 3 years before the Red Cross funds reach bushfire victims or not at all if they decide to quarantine cash for future national disasters!

There is no coordination to see that monies end up where they are most needed, no principles in place as to what the money is to be used for, no rules as to transparency on where the money went and already scammers are in operation. 

It’s a mess and generous people will be losing confidence that their donation was worthwhile.

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