Australian billionaires donate $75 million to fight wildfires after actress criticism

While Facebook users raised $34 million to fight the devastating wildfires in Australia, the country’s richest businessmen donated only twice that amount. Some of them splashed out only after the famous actress’s violent criticism on social networks

Since the wildfires started in Australia in November, millions of people have donated money to fight the natural disaster. Facebook hosted the largest fundraising campaign in history, with more than 1.2 million people raising $34 million. The initiator of the campaign, Australian comedian Celeste Barber noted that early donors did not seem to include the richest people in the country. Barber, via her Twitter, urged people in the 0.001% richest to take part in the campaign and recalled that after the Notre Dame fire in Paris, France’s most famous billionaires and corporations quickly raised $670 million in donations.

“Hey, billionaires, it’s too bad Notre Dame burned down. I understand. Multiply that by a trillion and you understand what’s going on in Australia,” she wrote. – Feel free to toss us a couple of million. You don’t seem to have a problem with it.”

Barber also reached out personally to Gina Rinehart, owner of the Australian iron ore company Hancock Prospecting. Rinehart is the richest billionaire in Australia. Her fortune is estimated at about $15 billion.

“Come on, Gina Rinehart, where the hell are you and all your money? If you’re vacationing with your family in Hawaii right now, I’m going to be terribly pissed.”

Barber’s appeals did not go unheeded at the Australian Billionaires Club. Reinhart immediately released an official statement to the Australian news media that she had secretly given an undisclosed amount to fight the fires and “prefers to donate without making it too public.”

Following the actress’ tweet, a foundation set up by Australian billionaire Paul Ramsey pledged to donate $21 million to community organizations that fight fires and rebuild areas after fires. Ramsey, who led the Ramsay Health Care empire, died in 2014 and bequeathed most of his $3.2 billion fortune to the foundation.

That was followed by the largest donation to date – Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation has pledged $48 million to fight the fires, of which about $7 million is to be spent on volunteer specialists, $7 million on immediate post-fire recovery, and the rest will go toward developing a long-term plan to make Australia more resilient to devastating fires.

In total, Australian billionaires and foundations associated with deceased billionaires have donated or pledged more than $75 million.

Even before Barber’s tweet, several Australian billionaires had already publicly donated to the disaster. But their donations don’t come close to matching the tens of millions raised by Facebook users. Gambling mogul James Packer has pledged about $3.5 million through the Packer Family Foundation and through the Crown Resort Foundation, the charitable arm of his company, a casino and resort operator.

Developer John Handel and industrial magnate Anthony Pratt each donated $700,000, with Pratt’s donation coming from his family foundation. IT entrepreneurs Michael Cannon-Brooks and Scott Farquhar also contributed $700,000 each. The same amount was donated by the Atlassian Foundation, the company they founded. The partners had previously donated $70,000 each through a Twitter auction where actor Russell Crowe’s hat was up for sale.

“Australians are doing all they can to support each other in these difficult times, and it’s truly inspiring,” Packer said in an official statement after the donation. – We just want to help.”

In addition to running user campaigns, Facebook announced Monday that it, too, will donate approximately $170,000 to the Australian Red Cross. In addition, the social network will pay up to an additional $700,000 in proportion to the amount of donations raised for the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund at GlobalGiving. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, whose philanthropic work has recently drawn intense public attention, posted the announcement on her Facebook page.

In a statement to Forbes, top Facebook executive Fiji Simo acknowledged the social media giant’s role in supporting philanthropy. “When you see how many people from around the world are supporting the people of Australia during these monstrous fires, it’s incredibly inspiring.”