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What will happen to the money donated to Celeste Barber's Facebook campaign?

Celeste Barber's wildly successful Facebook fundraiser has become synonymous with bushfire relief. What happens to the money? Well it is complicated.

News update (May 2020): The NSW Supreme Court ruled that the $51.3m fund-raised by Celeste Barber can only go to the New South Wales Rural Fire service.

Where does it go?

First, it goes to the Paypal Giving Fund. It does not automatically get paid out. There, it goes through a series of checks.

Next, the Facebook page says the money is going to The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund. This would send the money to the NSW fire brigades exclusively.

Mounting pressure

As the campaign grew, so did the pressure.

There has been mounting pressure on Barber to share the money with other causes. Many have said that she should share it with bushfire affected communities, fire brigades in other states and wildlife causes.

Can the money be shared?

Legally, Barber is entitled to put her foot down and insist that the money go to the he Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund.

There are limited ways the money can be spent. The Trustee of NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund by law must follow the trust deed which says it must go to NSW fire brigades. It does not allow the money to be given to anyone else.

This creates a sticky legal situation and is awkward because many people donated money not understanding that it does not go to a wider group of people and causes. Barber was clear and transparent on the fundraising page what the fundraiser was for.

So, what can they do?

There are three legal loopholes which would allow the money to be distributed to other clauses. They are:

1- NSW Parliament introduce legislation that allow the funds to be distributed more widely.

2- NSW Supreme Court approval.

3- NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund be closed down by winding it up. The money can then be distributed once the trust is wound up.


Celeste Barber is to be commended for her fundraising efforts. She used her Instagram profile as a fantastic comedian to lead a very effective Facebook campaign for good. We will be watching the developments with a keen interest.

Got a legal question? Call Legal Enablers on (03) 8691 3128.

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