Cricket Australia has sought a briefing about how millions of dollars in donations it poured into bushfire relief and recovery efforts have been spent by the Red Cross.
- Cricket Australia gave more than $7 million in bushfire donations to the Red Cross
- The organisation has asked for an update on how the money is being spent
- The money was raised through charity matches featuring stars like Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar
Red Cross Australia received $216 million in donations from individuals, businesses and organisations, including almost $8 million raised by Cricket Australia.
Cricket Australia put together several matches and initiatives over the summer to raise funds for the bushfire recovery effort.
The centrepiece of those efforts was the Bushfire Bash charity appeal, which encouraged international fans to pledge to donate for every wicket taken and boundary scored across four matches.
The cricketing body has been thrown into turmoil after the resignation of chief executive Kevin Roberts yesterday.
But at the start of this month, when he was still CEO, Mr Roberts penned a letter to National Bushfire Recovery Agency coordinator Andrew Colvin.
The correspondence, obtained by the ABC, raised concerns that some communities still had residents who were struggling after their homes were damaged or destroyed.
“Recent media reporting has brought attention to the issues still confronting fire-affected regions, particularly regarding the disbursement of charity funds and the lack of temporary accommodation available to impacted residents,” Mr Roberts wrote.
“Notwithstanding the complexities involved in the recovery effort and acknowledging the support that has already been delivered to many regions, it is concerning that victims of the summer’s bushfires are still said to be without adequate accommodation.
“As an organisation that raised considerable funds for charities supporting bushfire-impacted communities, Cricket Australia has a vested interest in the ongoing rebuild and recovery effort.
“We would welcome an update on the recovery, particularly as it pertains to the disbursement of charitable funds and temporary accommodation in fire-affected regions.”
In the letter, Mr Roberts said he had been contacted by the owner of a pub in one of the worst-affected communities, Cobargo.
He said publican David Allen provided him with a first-hand account of the issues facing residents.
Mr Allen last week told the ABC his community was still struggling with accommodation problems.
“They really need the help of good, decent, dignified, temporary accommodation,” he said.
“It just bewilders me that we can’t do better with this charity money.”
Meeting with Cricket Australia set for next week
Mr Colvin said a meeting had been arranged with Cricket Australia for next week.
“We welcome the engagement with Cricket Australia,” he told the ABC.
“I think Cricket Australia are reflecting concerns the community have about the recovery and the accommodation and disbursement of funds.”
Mr Colvin said charities had been responsive to the unprecedented bushfires and met with his agency every couple of weeks to share information and work out how to better target relief.
“It is complex, and the charities have to balance what they do now with what is a longer-term recovery need,” he said.
“We have to have an eye to the long-term recovery needs of these communities.”
Red Cross welcomes Cricket Australia questions
A Red Cross spokeswoman said the charity organisation enjoyed a “positive, open relationship with Cricket Australia”.
“We regularly engage with Cricket Australia and share updates on our work supporting bushfire-impacted communities and their recovery. Support from our partners, like Cricket Australia, enables our work with communities.”
So far Red Cross has spent $115 million of the $216 million in funds raised, including grants to 4,254 people.
“We share concerns about people in bushfire-impacted communities in temporary accommodation,” the spokeswoman said.
Mr Colvin said the challenge of finding people suitable accommodation also rested with state and local governments.
The Red Cross has recently extended grants to help people trying to find or build new homes, with an additional $30,000 available to home owners, on top of $20,000 provided in emergency payments.
“We will continue to work with governments and others to identify gaps in support so we can together ensure people’s needs are being met,” the Red Cross spokeswoman said.
The Red Cross and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency have urged anyone who still needs support to request help.