Forrest Makes Philanthropic History with $400M Donation
22 May 2017 at 4:45 pm
Australia has received its largest philanthropic donation to date from a living Australian.
Andrew and Nicola Forrest announced on Monday they will be donating $400 million from their personal wealth to tackle disadvantage in Australia and abroad.
The mining magnate and philanthropist split the $400 million the over six key areas: cancer research, early childhood development, higher education and research, supporting the arts and building community, ending disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and eliminating modern slavery globally.
In front of a gallery of stakeholders and politicians at Parliament House in Canberra, Forrest said he hoped his act of giving would inspire others.
“It can be easy to give with your heart, because there is so much need, particularly in vulnerable communities. The challenge is to give with your heart, mind and soul; to give cleverly so that maximum impact is achieved over the longer term, and to give wisely so that your own values are reflected,” Forrest said.
Forrest said a collaborative effort from government and the private sector was needed to address Australia’s most pressing problems.
He also called for more Australians to become philanthropists with a focus on “smart-giving” which gives “a hand-up as opposed to a hand-out”.
Philanthropy Australia CEO Sarah Davies told Pro Bono News the Forrest announcement was “incredibly exciting” and that it sent a very powerful message to potential philanthropists.
“The first thing is the way they have articulated their motivation for doing this. What I loved about Andrew and Nicola’s comments was it was ‘quite simply because we can’. I think it sounds really simple but it is so powerful: we do this because we can. It’s a bit like Sir Edmund Hillary: ‘why do you climb mount Everest, because it’s there,” Davies said.
“The second really significant feature is the fact they are prepared to be public and ambassadorial about giving. We know that is not common in Australia. We still don’t see that many people stand up and take a public leadership position on the importance of philanthropy and the importance of using one’s private wealth for public good.”
Davies said the Forrest’s were “role models” who would inspire others to think about “having a crack” at philanthropic giving.
“The third thing that is phenomenally exciting is how they are using their money,” she said.
“There is a freedom to philanthropic dollars that other dollars don’t have. When Andrew and Nicola talk about risk capital – that to me is the most powerful thing about the philanthropic dollar because it leverages all the freedom and power in that dollar to a far greater extent than if it was a government dollar or even a corporate dollar. So how they are using it, through social innovation, through that risk capital, through the ability to drive and test initiatives, well that, to me is the ultimate sweet spot for philanthropy.”
Davies said although the $400 million was significant, it was all relative.
“I don’t think philanthropy is about how much money you have got. The fact that they are taking a majority of their family wealth and giving it away – that is what is powerful, not that it is $400 million or $40,000. It’s all relative,” Davies said.
QUT philanthropy researcher Associate Professor Wendy Scaife said the Forrest’s generosity came at time when wider philanthropy was “flatlining”.
“While 87 per cent of Australian adults gave in Giving Australia 2005, this dropped to 80.8 per cent in the latest 2016 study,” Scaife said.
“Australia has seen a spate of very large donations only in recent years and ACPNS’ annual analysis of the ATO tax deductible donations data consistently points to four out of 10 of the nation’s affluent individuals not donating.”
A spokesperson for the Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, Tania Hudson told Pro Bono News the six areas they had decided to focus on were areas where they believed they could have a real impact.
“It’s about strategic giving, where can you achieve lasting, sustainable impact, rather that randomly giving or being responsive to requests. It’s more about identifying where their resources can make the best impact long term,” Hudson said.
“Certainly in the six different areas we are focusing on, the need is increasing. In all of these six areas the challenges aren’t going away and in some cases they are getting bigger.”
Forrest announced seed capital of $75 million would go towards global collaboration on cancer research, $75 million towards higher education scholarships and facilities, $50 million towards supporting arts and cultural sector, environmental initiatives and community organisations and $75 million to ending modern day slavery through the Forrest’s Walk Free Foundation.
The $75 million donated to early childhood development has been welcomed by the sector.
Ten20 managing director Seri Renkin said she welcomed the investment into early childhood.
“It is really positive to see such significant recognition of the importance early childhood investment makes in children’s lives,” Renkin said.
The Forrest’s have also committed $50 million towards ending disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, which will go towards improving Indigenous employment and school attendance, as well as welfare reform.
Part of the $50 million package will go towards supporting the government’s extension of the controversial cashless debit cards, an initiative proposed in the 2014 Forrest Report.