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Celeste Barber’s bushfire fundraising campaign has hit a serious roadblock

3AW Breakfast

Comedian Celeste Barber’s wildly successful bushfire fundraising effort has hit a concerning legal roadblock.

Ms Barber has raised almost $48 million for the NSW Rural Fire Service in less than a week.

But Krystian Seibert from the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University said there are significant limitations on what the money raised, which is currently sitting in a PayPal holding account, can be spent on.

Ms Barber has indicated she wants to spread the funds raised around to other states, and other charitable organisations helping with bushfire relief, but the decision may not be up to her.

“Basically, the directors of that PayPal holding account, they have the actual final say about where the funds go,” Mr Seibert told 3AW’s Kate and Quarters.

Even within the NSW RFS, the organisation’s own restrictions stipulate the funds can only be used for limited purposes.

“It can only spend them on buying new equipment, training firefighters, administration for the local brigades,” Mr Seibert said.

“It’s questionable whether it could even spend those funds on things such as assisting the families of those firefighters who have bravely given their lives, and it’s quite clear that it wouldn’t be able to be spent on things such as bushfire relief, so where people have lost homes, they don’t have any clothes, they need temporary accommodation, social workers, counselling, things like that.”

But there is some room for re-direction of the funds. While Ms Barber doesn’t have the final say on how the funds are spent, she can make recommendations to the PayPal Giving Fund, which is currently holding the money.

“They also have the contact details of all those donors. They have all of their emails, so they can come up with a plan for how to spend the funds and they can communicate it to all the donors,” Mr Seibert said.

“I think people would be quite comfortable having the funds also distributed to people in need and organisations in need in Victoria, South Australia and elsewhere.”

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