Foundations controlled by Australian casino billionaire James Packer have pledged AU$4 million ($2.77 million) in support of bushfire relief efforts in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian report.
The commitments — AU$2.5 million from the Crown Resorts Foundation and AU$1.5 million from the Packer Family Foundation — will support volunteer fire agencies, relief services, and wildlife charities in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia — all states where Crown Resorts casinos are located. The largest publicly announced pledge to date in response to the unfolding disaster is in addition to the AU$1 million ($693,000) pledged by the Packer Family Foundation in November. Recipients of the pledged funds include Victoria's Country Fire Authority (AU$1 million) and NSW's Rural Fire Service (AU$1 million). Six million hectares across Australia have burned since the bushfires flared up, and the fire season is just getting started. Australian officials put the estimated economic cost of the disaster at AU$2 billion and rising.
"Australians are digging deep to support each other in these tough times, it's truly inspiring. My family and Crown are eager to do more, and the best way we can help is to significantly increase our donation," said Packer. "We hope these funds play a small part in helping our firefighters and easing the suffering of people who have lost their homes and the poor wildlife caught up in the blaze. We just want to do our bit."
Billionaire businessman Anthony Pratt also tweeted that the Pratt Foundation, his family’s foundation, would donate AU$1 million to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal "in support of the brave Australians battling the fires." Other recently announced pledges in support of relief efforts include $1 million from John and Pauline Gandel; $1 million from Australian airline Qantas; $1 million from Commonwealth Bank; and $500,000 from Sydney hospitality billionaire Justin Hemmes. In addition, a fundraising campaign launched by comedian Celeste Barber reportedly has raised more than AU$30 million for relief efforts.
(Photo credit: Salvation Army Australia)