Andrew Constance slams Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul for bushfire relief delays
- Category: NGOs and other system leeches
- Created: Thursday, 23 January 2020 19:56
- Written by Alecomm2
At an emotional press conference in Batemans Bay, Member for Bega Andrew Constance came out swinging against the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul for taking too long to distribute money.
"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," Mr Constance said.
"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."
The Australian Red Cross has received $95 million to date and on Wednesday announced they have allocated $30 million to victims.
A spokesperson said the organisation has paid out 559 grants but has 1,492 open applications.
St Vincent De Paul has raised $12.5 million and spent close to $1.1 million through financial packages for eligible households.
Since the Salvation Army's bushfire appeal began in November, $43 million has been pledged and $11 million has been received.
From September to now, $7.6 million worth of goods and cash relief has been distributed.
Over the last two months, people all over the world have donated generously to charity appeals, the Rural Fire Service (RFS), Celeste Barber's Facebook fundraiser and animal rescue organisations like the RSPCA.
Mr Constance, the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, said it was "gutting" to learn only a third of the money donated to the Red Cross has been distributed when there are people who cannot afford the basics.
He said he had met people who are so traumatised they cannot even leave their properties to register for relief.
The Minister, who has admitted he will need trauma counselling, issued a challenge to the managing directors of the three charities to come and see how people are living.
"Meet me in Batemans Bay at 8.00am on Saturday and I'll drive you the 300 kilometres of devastation on the far south coast.
"I'll show you the people, you can look them in their eyes and you can see their despair and the destruction that this firebomb brought to our region.
"They better turn up, they better have the guts to show up and be with me … I'll show them communities which haven't been on the map, like Kiah, like Nerrigundah, like the back of Bemboka, like Cooma."
The CEOs of St Vincent De Paul NSW and Canberra, Jack De Groot and Barnie van Wyk, have accepted Mr Constance's invitation.
The charity said over the past three days Mr van Wyk has overseen the distribution of $200,000 in financial relief to bushfire-affected locals on the south coast.
Over the new year period, areas of the south coast were completely wiped out by bushfires, with devastating losses in Batemans Bay, Conjola Park, Conjola, Cobargo and Mogo.
'Keen to get the money out': Red Cross
Red Cross director of Australian services Noel Clement said there was an absolute commitment to getting money in victim's pockets.
"We are keen to get the money out but we also need to make sure it's getting where it's needed," he said.
Mr Clements admitted some people were waiting weeks for relief money as there were challenges in proving where they lived after losing everything.
"We must manage the money so we aren't scammed … we want to make sure we are protecting donor's funds," he said.
He emphasised that recovery is a "long-term process" and it will take six months for some people to make claims or decide whether to rebuild.
In a statement, the Red Cross said chief executive Judy Slatyer had been on the South Coast last week meeting with residents and had made "several attempts" to contact Mr Constance.
A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said their emergency relief was being distributed at evacuation and relief centres in bushfire zones.
"We understand relief can never happen fast enough for people in these traumatic circumstances. We are working as fast as we can," they said.
Former emergency service commissioner Peter Dunn is a Conjola local helping to lead the community's recovery efforts and said donations have been "overwhelming" but long-term management was vital.
"I saw this in the Canberra [bushfires] in 2003 … there is enormous generosity when people are seeing images and hearing the stories on the media," he said.
"But after three-to-six months, other events take over and they catch the public's imagination and naturally, the donation flow starts to diminish."
He said this would be around this time when victims began to rebuild.
During the first few months, homes need to be inspected, insurance claims finalised and asbestos cleared from the land, he said.
"But of course by then the focus of the public has gone elsewhere," Mr Dunn said.