BUSHFIRE SUPPORT EASILY MISDIRECTED

It’s absolutely fantastic that Australia and indeed the world are rallying around the need to support those devastated by the continuing and ongoing bushfire holocaust of 2019 and 2020. While the present conflagration is around about a month old, in fact the bushfire season started As far back as September 2019.

It is the Armageddon of the last fortnight that has galvanised giving. This has been particularly the case in the last four or five days. It’s probably not going beyond anticipation to suggest that dollars pledged in support of those devastated by bushfires now runs to the billions.

Generosity and support is coming from everybody, in all walks of life and from people connecting from around the world. Awareness and response are outstanding.

The problem I see rests not so much in the giving but rather in the way those generous donations are going to be collated and distributed. I would also worry that people who are not entitled to support or some help wriggle their way into receiving money and other help.

In 1998 when the town of Katherine in the Northern Territory was devastated by floods, the Red Cross and other support institutions received and distributed donations. I am aware of the fact, based upon observation that when the Red Cross came to distributing funds, many who are not entitled and hearing about the distribution, engaged in what might simply be called “theft”.

People not affected by those floods lined up and were given generous financial handouts. And there were many who came through a second and third time in order to receive more and more “support”.

We are constantly regaled by stories about misappropriation of funds from trusts set up to support those in need. It’s also true that many people within the top and middle level management of distributing organisations are on substantial retainers and salaries. When one considers associations with these key groups, it’s not by any means all about volunteers.

The distribution of funds needs to be managed in a way that allows the money to go in its entirety to those who need the support. Achieving this end can be easier said than done.

May all those who I have suffered devastating loss of family and property be uplifted and given the strength and fortitude to rebound. And may policies be put in place that will in future enable this country to better manage what has become an annual bushfire hell.

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