Comedian Celeste Barber has been criticised unfairly for her hosting of the 10-hour Fire Fight Australia concert. Picture: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images
Comedian Celeste Barber has been criticised unfairly for her hosting of the 10-hour Fire Fight Australia concert. Picture: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images

Stop hating on Celeste Barber. She’s a national star

JUST as night follows day, and climate change brings extreme bushfire events, the torching of accidental hero and face of the fundraising cause, Celeste Barber was an inevitability.

Her sins?

Taking the suffering of her fellow Australians to heart, using her enormous international platform to raise $52 million and then not getting the tone exactly right for the basement brigade, trolling from home, as she revved up a 70,000-strong crowd at the Fire Fight Australia concert.

Sitting in the stadium with my family, some affected by the blazes just like Barber's, we were all in awe of the vivacious host, who had the unenviable task of projecting to the crowds filling Sydney Olympic stadium while also pleasing the 4 million or so watching at home over the course of the 10-hour event.

Ever tried to keep your kids entertained for 10 hours and not resorted to screaming?

Comedian Celeste Barber addresses the crowd during Fire Fight Australia at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. Picture: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images
Comedian Celeste Barber addresses the crowd during Fire Fight Australia at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. Picture: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images

The honest among us would answer in the affirmative, but not the mean-spirited at home who had to pick apart her performance, or redirect their complaints about technical sound issues at the woman who has arguably done the most to support the victims of this tragic summer.

Revving up the crowd between acts, Barber was entertaining, enthusiastic and at times, overwhelmed by the emotion of what lay before her - a sea of happy Australians, coming together to celebrate the real heroes of this crisis, the firefighters, while remembering and honouring those who lost lives and homes and animals.

Such was the atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium, anyone taking to the stage had to raise their voice to be heard over the crowds - or even just to hear the person next to them.

Over the marathon day, made more challenging by the extreme heat (don't mention the C word), her spots between acts were pure sunshine.

Whether riding a garden rake as a way to introduce Horses singer, Daryl Braithwaite, or wiggling her curves into sequin frocks worthy of a red carpet, Barber - the every woman - just dazzled.

And for those who weren't listening, her message of solidarity was an important one - delivered directly to the first responders and those communities left terrorised by these monstrous fires: 'we see you, we love you and we will stand by you.'

Celeste Barber’s message of solidarity was important to us all. Picture: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images
Celeste Barber’s message of solidarity was important to us all. Picture: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images

Clutching a tambourine, this was no egomaniacal celebrity looking to hog the headlines (as one embittered charity spokeswoman said on Nine's Today show this morning).

Emblazoned on the skin of the instrument was her collective call to action and personal mantra: "power to the people."

As someone whose family was evacuated from a fire-ravaged town, Barber knew all too well the feeling of abandonment many still carry after manning hoses and protecting neighbours while our PM was sipping cocktails on a beach in Hawaii.

If Scott Morrison thought that stain on his political copybook was going to be erased quickly, the cheers when Barber appeared on stage in a T-shirt mocking him for his absence at a time of national crisis should let him know his redemption in these communities is still a long way off yet.

It’s easy to criticise the comedian, famed for her Instagram spoofs. But she has done more for bushfire victims than most. Picture: Instagram
It’s easy to criticise the comedian, famed for her Instagram spoofs. But she has done more for bushfire victims than most. Picture: Instagram

For those critical of her attempts to share the incredible generosity she managed to harness via her Instagram and GoFundMe appeal, the only thing you need to know is that the initial recipient - the RFS - is working with the entertainer to help distribute some of the moneys to equally worthy causes.

No animosity, but amicably working through the legalities so others may be supported and rebuild using the millions of donations.

Attacking her for wanting to share the love must go down as a new low for those who just don't get what we as a country stand for.

It's right there in our national anthem … Advance Australia Fair.

So fair go, trolls, and lay off Celeste - a star in name and nature.

Holly Byrnes is News Corp Australia's national TV editor

@byrnesh


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