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Pro Bono Australia’s proud contribution to the sector

In 2020, Pro Bono Australia celebrated our 20th birthday. Achieving this milestone gave us a wonderful opportunity to look back on how far we have come and consider the difference we have made.

Over the past two decades, we have created the space, and held the intention, for the emergence of the social economy in Australia. Something we are very proud of.

It has meant bringing together many different but related communities of interest: not for profits, charities, impact investors, philanthropists, volunteers, corporate social responsibility and social enterprise. All working for a greater good and for others.

Pro Bono News’ role has been to be both the place of record and voice for that sector and to lead the conversations that can shape its future.

To reflect on the past 20 years, we planned a series of articles to showcase how far we, and the sector, have come in the last two decades. When we first set out to do the series, we had no idea that COVID was coming, nor could we foresee how this would shape the world we are living in. But in some ways it is fitting that the series coincided with the pandemic.

As the world looks at how we build back better, how we use this moment to rewrite the rules, it is good to take stock of how we got here.

With this in mind, we hope you enjoy our look back series which shines a spotlight on the key areas that make up the social economy and asks, what was it like then? What is it like now? And, crucially, what can that tell us about what comes next?

Each article is accompanied by a timeline of stories that we have written, a reminder of the role we have played as a trusted news service that has borne witness to a sector that has transformed, and in many ways grown up in that time.

To set the scene, read our introduction to the series here, and then explore each of the different sectors below.


“[We] are now starting to really celebrate and acknowledge the importance of private philanthropy. It is a democratic asset… It’s been a game changer.”

Look how far we’ve come: Philanthropy

Visual timeline: Key moments in Australian philanthropy


“While the sector has doubled in size in the last 10 years, it has also become much more competitive and survival can mean charities drift from their primary purpose in order to pursue income opportunities.”

Look how far we’ve come: Charities

Visual timeline: Key moments in Australia’s charity sector

Social enterprise

“[We’re] starting to show that you can do good and make money, but I want to put emphasis on the ‘starting to show’ because I don’t think we’re fully there yet.”

Look how far we’ve come: Social Enterprise

Visual timeline: Key moments in Australian social enterprise

Corporate social responsibility

“Corporate leaders who are serious about CSR need to start calling out their peers that aren’t serious about CSR.”

Look how far we’ve come: CSR

Visual timeline: Key moments in Australian CSR


“I think that as a sector, we are valuing volunteer contributions more and more… we’re expanding our view and recognising the many diverse ways that people contribute.”

Look how far we’ve come: Volunteering

Visual timeline: Key moments in Australian volunteering

Impact investing

“Given the opportunity, people from all walks will step forward to do things that put impact at the heart of performance.”

Look how far we’ve come: Impact investing

Visual timeline: Key moments in Australian impact investing

Pro Bono Australia is a group of socially-minded individuals who help purpose-driven people and organisations like yourself to grow your impact.

We believe society is better off when there is a thriving social economy. So over two decades ago, before the words “social enterprise” even existed, we started one. Our mission is simple: to activate good intentions. And our name? It comes from pro bono, meaning “for good”. Because that’s what we are.

Learn more about what we do, and our impact here.

You can also find out more about how Pro Bono Australia came to be, in this piece from our founder Karen Mahlab AM: The story of us.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

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