In November, the Packer Family Foundation and Crown Resorts pledged $1 million to help with the devastation caused by the Australian bushfires. Now they’ve upped the ante, donating an additional $4 million.

This effort is led by James Packer, the maverick Aussie billionaire and gambling tycoon. In fact, so far it’s the largest single donation made public.

The money will go to relief services, fire agencies, and wildlife organizations in Victoria, Western Australia, and New South Wales. Of the $5 million, the NSW Rural Fire Service and Victoria’s Country Fire Authority will each receive $1 million.

According to Packer, “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. 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.”

In Need of Positive Press

This positive press comes at a much-needed time for Packer and Crown Casinos. The gambling giant has suffered through a rough year thanks to various scandals. Multiple state and federal probes are underway, and Packer has also had difficulty selling off a percentage of his ownership.

Packer seems to be at a turning point in his life following a much publicized break-up with pop icon Mariah Carey. He now has a new woman in his life, and there’s widespread speculation that he’s looking to entirely exit the world of gambling.

Previous Charitable Donations

As it turns out, James Packer isn’t a stranger to charitable endeavours. In 2014, Crown Resorts and the Packer Family Foundation partnered to create the National Philanthropic Fund.

This fund pledged to commit $200 million to Aussie causes over the next decade. $100 million was earmarked for organizations that promote the arts. Another $100 million was set aside for the larger community, with an emphasis on Indigenous education.

10 Facts about Australian Bushfires

Kangaroo stands in front of burning house due to Australian bushfires.

The fires raging across Australia have received extensive media coverage. However, the issue warrants even greater discussion. In order to do our part, I present these 10 noteworthy facts about the ongoing Aussie bushfires.

  • Canberra currently has the worst air quality of any city on Earth. The Australia Post has cancelled all deliveries. In December, Sydney’s air quality measured 11 times higher than the “hazardous” level.
  • If the fire front in NSW was stretched into a straight line, it would reach from Sydney to Afghanistan.
  • To date, at least 26 people have been killed and 1,700 homes destroyed.
  • Sydney still held their annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Over 280,000 people signed a petition calling for the event to the cancelled and the money to be donated to farmers and firefighters.
  • NSW police have charged 24 people with setting bushfires on purpose.
  • 2019 is the driest and hottest year ever recorded in the nation, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
  • The deadliest bushfires in Aussie history took place in 2009. Known as “Black Saturday,” these fires raged throughout Victoria and killed 173 people.
  • The area of burned land is six times larger than the 2019 fires in the Amazon.
  • Victoria declared a state of emergency for the first time in its history. Currently, more than one-seventh of the state in ablaze.
  • Since September, an estimated 480 million animals have been killed. In fact, fires have eliminated 30% of the koala population.

Other Celebrity Donations

James Packer isn’t the only celebrity to donate money to the bushfire relief efforts. Here are just a few of the famous individuals who have opened their pocketbook:

  • Singer Keith Urban and his actress wife, Nicole Kidman, pledged $500,000 to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.
  • Aussie comic Celeste Barber started a fund on her Facebook page. It has raised $46 million AUD so far, making it the most successful Facebook campaign to date.
  • Singer Elton John pledged $1 million, calling the destruction “biblical.”
  • Actress Rebel Wilson auctioned off two private lunch dates and raised $100,000.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance charity pledged $3 million.
  • Singer/actress Kylie Minogue and her family donated $500,000.
  • Billionaire Justin Hemmes donated $500,000 to the RFS.
  • Actor Russell Crowe hand-delivered checks worth $105,000 to RFS Captain John Lardner. In November, he also raised $400,000 by auctioning off one of his old rugby league caps.
  • American singer P!nk pledged $500,000 to local fire departments.
  • Actor Chris Hemsworth and his family pledged $1 million.
  • Make-up mogul and world’s youngest billionaire, Kylie Jenner, pledged $1 million to relief efforts.
  • And while she’s not exactly a celebrity, a special shout-out goes to Kaylen Ward. The California-based model, who’s better known on Twitter as the Naked Philanthropist, offered to exchange one nude photo for each $10 donation. The tweet predictably went viral, allowing her to raise over $500,000 within a couple of days.

How You Can Help

From fire departments to animal clinics, scores of people and organizations have come together to help Australia during this disaster. Unfortunately, such an epic event requires lots of money.

The next time you consider playing the pokies, you may want to donate to the bushfire relief, instead. The USA Today website posted an excellent list of charitable organizations and emergency services, and all of them could use your help.

Further Reading on Packer and Crown Casino

For additional information on James Packer and his casino empire, be sure to see the following: