“I do not want people to think that criminal behaviour, while reprehensible, is the main reason for the devastation this bushfire season,” he said.
“Arson may be responsible for starting fires in some cases, but it is not the reason the fires have reached the proportions they have through this season and it is not the reason they have continued for so long.”
This fire season 24 people in New South Wales have been charged over deliberately lit bushfires, but Victoria Police said fires engulfing the eastern part of the state were not being treated as suspicious.
Dozens of fires raging in East Gippsland and north-eastern regions of Victoria were largely caused by lightning strikes in November.
Of the Forrests’ $70 million gift, $10 million will be used for immediate bushfire relief and $10 million will go towards mobilising about 1250 specialist volunteers from tradies to health professionals from WA.
The remaining $50 million will go towards a $500 million project gathering experts to develop a “globally relevant national blueprint” for fire and disaster resilience, including new approaches to mitigate bushfires.
Led by former CSIRO data boss Adrian Turner, the project would include looking at climate change, mental health, science and technology, environmental conservation, water security and land management.
Mr Forrest said the blueprint could be used by countries around the world and one of the primary focus areas would be climate change.
“Philanthropists and others from around the world are seeing Australia burn and saying, ‘Will we be next?'” he said.
“I am saying and replying [they] may well be, help create a blueprint for Australia and that blueprint can be used for California, that blueprint can be used for Brazil, that blueprint can be used all over the world.
“We need to create, not the politics, we need to create the science, the management, the leadership techniques, the very deep knowledge which is out there in the world and pull it all together.”
Mr Turner said there was no question that climates were varying and a big part of the contributor during this fire season was the dry fuel load, which was directly related to climate.
Mr Forrest said they wanted to provide immediate relief because they mourned the hardships of their fellow countrymen and women.
“We recognise that we don’t have all the answers, but we want to understand what communities need and do our bit to help them now and as they regroup in the coming months,” he said.
Australians have dug deep, donating an unprecedented amount of money following the devastating east coast bushfires which have burnt through more than 10 million hectares of bush and killed 25 people so far and, potentially, 1 billion animals.
Big names and businesses were also quick to offer help. The Forrests joined other billionaires such as James Packer, who donated $5 million through Crown and his Packer Family Foundation.
Anthony Pratt, who owns the Visy Industries packaging company, committed $1 million to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.
Comedian Celeste Barber raised more than $45 million in an incredible social media-driven effort over Facebook.
Hamish Hastie is WAtoday’s business reporter.