FRIDAY JANUARY, 24
Australia’s biggest charities are in the firing line after it was revealed millions of dollars are yet to be distributed to desperate bushfire victims.
The Australian Red Cross, the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul were three of the most-donated charities during the crisis.
Over $100 million has been sent to the Red Cross since the bushfires started but less than a third of that has reached victims.
The Australian Red Cross admitted that $30 million of the $115 million donated had been distributed to victims.
The charity paid out 559 grants but still had 1492 open applications.
NSW Liberal MP Andrew Constance summed up the frustration of bushfire victims, whose Bega electorate was also hard hit by the fires in December.
“How dare they (the Red Cross) say publicly they’re only going to spend a third of the donations on people when people are traumatised and in crisis?” Mr Constance told reporters yesterday.
“We’ve got people in tents, on lounges, in caravan parks, in showgrounds, people sleeping rough on their burnt-out properties and they don’t want to hear about a three-year program.
“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.
“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.”
Red Cross’ Poppy Brown said to ABC’s News Breakfast, that the charity was “very experienced” in supporting appeals and communities following natural disasters.
“We managed $380 million that was donated for the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. What we know is it’s not just the immediate needs, communities will take a long time to recover,” she said.
She said the $30 million had been allocated for immediate use and the charity was giving $1 million a day to bushfire victims.
The remaining funds will be spent over the next three years with Ms Brown confirming that the money would be allocated to bushfire victims not to be held for future natural disasters.
Ms Brown also said the money donated was being given to anyone who had immediate needs.
“The money is going out to those people who have lost their homes…anyone that gets in contact with us will absolutely get a grant of $10,000,” she said.
“But we know that this need is going to be long-term and ongoing. We don’t want all the money spent now and then the community to be really in need in 12 months time and the media spotlight has moved on and these people are really doing it tough.”
The Red Cross has also come under fire for its administration fees.
While the charity does not charge an admin fee on donations but has an option at the bottom of its donation page that reads: “I’d like to add a little extra to help cover fees”.
On a $500 donation comes a $15 fee while a $150 donation brings a $6 fee.
Ms Brown said that the charity was hoping to keep admin fees at 10 per cent.
“There are some costs that we obviously have in terms of fuel for the volunteers with their cars, the computers and all those kind of things,” she said.
“We’ve committed to have that cost a maximum of 10 per cent of what gets donated but we’re hoping it’s going to be much less. But 10 cents in a dollar would potentially be spent on some of those costs.”
The interest made on the more than $70 million sitting in Red Cross bank accounts would also be added to the funding used to support bushfire victims, Ms Brown said,
Although the Red Cross has been forced into damage control this morning, anger has also been directed at other big charities such as St Vincent De Paul.
St Vincent De Paul has admitted to paying a mere $1.1 million through financial packages from the $12.5 million raised.
The Salvation Army’s bushfire appeal has also only handed out $11 million of the $43 million received.
New cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been reported across the world with multiple cities in China now in lock down.
There are nearly 650 cases of novel coronavirus reported globally with 18 confirmed dead.
Health authorities in Hebei, just south of Beijing, said on Thursday an 80-year-old man infected with the virus had died there.
He died on Wednesday but was not confirmed to have been infected with the virus until Thursday. All of the deceased are said to have been elderly and with other chronic health issues.
Three cities are now in lock down including Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou all with a combined population of more than 18 million people.
South China Morning Post reports eight cities are now subject to travel bans including Hubei, Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijang and Lichuan.
Eight other countries have reported patients with the virus.
Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, the United States, Taiwan and South Korea have all reported at least one case.
Airports worldwide are screening passengers arriving from China with US warning travellers to exercise increased caution in China.
Preliminary research suggests the virus was passed to humans from snakes, however Chinese government medical adviser Zhong Nanshan has also identified badgers and rats as possible sources.
The new strain of the coronavirus has created alarm because there are a number of unknowns surrounding it, including that it is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.
There is no vaccine for the virus, which can spread through respiratory transmission. Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and cough.
Three US crew members were killed when their Large Air Tanker crashed while fighting a bushfire in southern NSW.
Early Thursday afternoon, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it “lost contact” with the Lockheed C-130 Hercules being used in water bombing operations in the Snowy Monaro area.
Firefighters, emergency services and military personnel launched a search and rescue operation to locate the wreckage.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said all crew members were “tragically” killed.
“[The aircraft] impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground,” he said.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said there was no indication on what caused the accident, but the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was working to determine what happened.
The C-130 was contacted through North American aerial firefighting company Coulson Aviation (USA).
The company has grounded their Large Air Tankers fleet as a precaution and as “a mark of respect”.
This will have an immediate impact on aerial firefighting capacity, however Commissioner Fitzsimmons said he understood their decision.
“It’s absolutely warranted and I support them 100 per cent,” he said.
“They are very mindful of the emotional and psychological effect that such a tragedy will have on the rest of their workforce, not just here in Australian but in North America or Canada.”
All three occupants on the plane were American firefighters.
The RFS said the aircraft was engaged in “routine” water bombing activities at the time of the crash.
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