The Red Cross has revealed it has passed on the majority of the $242 million raised through charitable donations for Australia’s Black Summer Bushfires.
The organisation was criticised during the devastating blazes for being slow in handing out money to those in need.
But 18 months after the bushfires Red Cross announced it had given out $224 million, while the remaining $18 million has been allocated for further grants.
In its report released on Monday, the Red Cross revealed 6085 people had received 13,260 financial assistance grants while more than 40,000 were assisted with recovery through one-on-one and group support, training, workshops, information and referrals.
In January 2020, during the thick of the tragic bushfires, NSW Transport Minister and member for the devastated region of Bega, Andrew Constance, had lashed out at the Red Cross and St Vincent De Paul for delaying relief payments.
At the time, Red Cross had allocated just $30 million of the $95 million donated.
But on Monday, Red Cross National Emergency Services Manager Andrew Coghlan said the organisation had worked hard to get the payments to the hardest-hit Australians.
The Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund was independently audited by Deloitte, as part of the Australian Red Cross 2019/20 annual report.
“Australians responded with unparalleled generosity in the face of the widespread losses,” Mr Coghlan said.
“We have been regularly reporting on how the donations have been used, in line with our commitment to donor transparency.
“There has also been an independent review by the charity regulator reported favourably on our work.
“We continue to recognise the strength and resilience of those who endured the worst bushfire season on record.
“We stand with them as they grieve for what was lost, and as they walk the long journey to rebuilding their lives.
“We also recognise the many donors and emergency services workers, including 3,351 Red Cross people, who gave so much to the relief and recovery effort.
“Our update shows at 30 June 2021 we have given out 13,260 financial assistance grants and continue to support affected communities, with a network of recovery officers in the worst-affected communities.
“Our long experience in disasters shows us that recovery can take a very long time, and well after the cameras and the world’s attention moves on, we remain on the ground, working to support communities’ aspirations.”