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Top Philanthropic Gifts of 2017


Wednesday, 20th December 2017 at 3:36 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor
In 2017 Australia received its largest ever philanthropic donation from a living Australian, in a year that saw universities, medical research and the performing arts as the top targets for individual giving.


Wednesday, 20th December 2017
at 3:36 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor


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Top Philanthropic Gifts of 2017
Wednesday, 20th December 2017 at 3:36 pm

In 2017 Australia received its largest ever philanthropic donation from a living Australian, in a year that saw universities, medical research and the performing arts as the top targets for individual giving.

The history making donation in May 2017 saw Andrew and Nicola Forrest give $400 million from their personal wealth to tackle disadvantage in Australia and abroad.

The mining magnate and philanthropist split the $400 million 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.

At the time 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.

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.

Victorian philanthropists Peter and Ruth McMullin also made a donation described as “one of the most significant gifts in the history of the University of Melbourne Law School” in 2017.

The gift established the world’s only academic centre devoted to the problem of statelessness.

The Centre on Statelessness will examine the causes and extent of statelessness around the world, particularly in the Asia-­Pacific region. Peter McMullin is a former graduate of the Melbourne Law School.

The undisclosed donation amount was described by the university as being “enough to establish and run the centre for the next 10 years”.

A $5 million donation from The Ian Potter Foundation funded a new state-of-the-art skills development hub at Victoria University Sunshine campus to tackle job shortages in Melbourne’s West.

The philanthropic grant complemented funding from the Victorian government and was the foundation’s first major investment in vocational education and training.

Victoria University said the significant investment would allow students to study construction technologies, advanced manufacturing and health technologies; use simulated learning environments for health and community services; and have a dedicated space for targeted language, literacy and numeracy programs.

Zoos Victoria received a $1 million gift in 2017 establishing an endowment fund which aimed at strengthening its long-term position as delivering world-leading zoo experiences.

The gift was made by the Bowness Family Foundation, created by philanthropist and businessman Bill Bowness AO who founded Wilbow Corporation in 1976, which grew to be one of Australia’s largest privately owned property development companies.

The Bowness Family Foundation has previously made significant donations to education, the arts and social inclusion initiatives. Chair of the foundation and Zoo board member, Natasha Bowness, said the gift was an investment in the long-term future of Zoos Victoria.

A $5.5 million philanthropic donation towards genetic testing for blood cancer patients in 2017 was described as “advancing Australia’s global leadership in the emerging field of personalised medicine”.

The pledge, over a four year period, was made by cancer survivor Christine Wilson and her husband Bruce, via the Snowdome Foundation, to establish the Christine and Bruce Wilson Centre for Lymphoma Genomics.

According to cancer specialist Professor Miles Prince, who is also the co-founder and director of Snowdome Foundation, the new centre represented Victoria’s and Australia’s global leadership in the emerging field of “personalised medicine”.

A 2017 survey of fundraising found private sector support for the performing arts had grown to record levels.

Revenue from donations, corporate sponsorship and fundraising events in Australia’s major performing arts sector grew by 15.2 per cent in 2016, increasing by $12.6 million to a total of $95.7 million.

The largest increase was in donation income, which rose $10.3 million to $53.5 million and now contributes 57 per cent of total private philanthropic support, up from 54 per cent in 2015.

Philanthropist Pamela Galli gave medical biology a $5 million boost with the establishment of the Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Chair in Medical Biology at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the University of Melbourne.

It was the third chair created by Galli at the University of Melbourne and one of its partner research institutions.

Philanthropist Leonard Ainsworth joined Andrew and Nicola Forrest as the third Australian to sign up to the Giving Pledge – an international forum of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families committed to donating a large proportion of their wealth to charity –  pledging to give at least half of his wealth to charitable causes.

Ainsworth, known as Australia’s pokies king, is Australia’s 11th wealthiest person and made his billionaire fortune in the gaming industry manufacturing pokie machines.

Ainsworth has been involved in philanthropy for more than 50 years and his foundation, Ainsworth Family Foundation, was listed as 23rd in The Financial Review’s Philanthropy’s 50 Biggest Private Givers.

Ainsworth said he had been fortunate in being able to increase philanthropic giving over the years. His past philanthropic support had gone towards medicine and medical research and universities.

According to the first detailed report on philanthropy, released in 2017 as part of the national Giving Australia research, it emerged that more Australian philanthropists were engaging in collective giving in addition to their normal giving.

More than a third of respondents to the Philanthropy and Philanthropists survey (38.5 per cent) said they were now participating in collective giving. This was on top of giving individually or through foundations.

Of those who participated in collective giving, 90 per cent indicated they were motivated by the desire to encourage giving in others.

Davies said 2017 had been another “fantastic year” for philanthropy in Australia.

“We’re seeing more Australians wanting to use private wealth for public good. We’ve seen ground-breaking big gifts, and the democratisation of giving we’re seeing through giving circles and other approaches is very exciting,” she said.

“The philanthropic sector is also becoming more creative about the strategies it supports to achieve social change, and is striving to be a more effective partner for not for profits.

“It’s a really exciting time for philanthropy and as the peak body for the sector, Philanthropy Australia is looking forward to 2018.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.


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