Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

Australians show heart

Aid agencies said the Australian public had inundated Asian disaster funds with the most generous appeal response in the country's history Thursday as Prime Minister John Howard urged people to give more to help devastated regional neighbours.

Everyone from the national cricket team to schoolchildren handed over donations that were approaching 25 million dollars (19.25 million US) late Thursday, with the total more than tripling in the space of a day.

The Australian public's donations eclipsed official relief funds offered by some major industrialised nations and leading charities said it already exceeded the total raised by appeals in the wake of the 2002 Bali bombing and the humanitarian crisis in East Timor in 1999.

Corporate Australia also opened its purse strings, with Qantas Airways contributing one million dollars, while the Australian cricket team said it would donate its 17,000 dollars prize-money from victory in the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan.

"The response has been unprecedented," UNICEF Australia chief executive Carolyn Hardy told AFP.