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Carol Schwartz AO crowned Australia’s leading philanthropist


17 November 2020 at 4:51 pm
Luke Michael
The winners of the 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards have been revealed 


Luke Michael | 17 November 2020 at 4:51 pm


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Carol Schwartz AO crowned Australia’s leading philanthropist
17 November 2020 at 4:51 pm

The winners of the 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards have been revealed 

Trawalla Foundation co-founder Carol Schwartz AO has taken out the nation’s highest philanthropic honour at the 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards, in recognition of her lifelong contribution to the sector and her insights into giving, community, leadership and gender.

Schwartz was presented with the Leading Philanthropist award on Tuesday, and was praised for her work strengthening gender equality and promoting women in leadership roles.

Philanthropy Australia CEO Sarah Davies said Schwartz has made an incredible contribution through strategic, innovative and forward-thinking philanthropy. 

“Carol has spent her life focused on strengthening gender equality, creativity, sustainability and social justice within Australian society,” Davies said.

“[She] is courageous and entrepreneurial in her philanthropic approach and uses a range of levers for impact – grant making, partnerships, investments, networks, new initiatives and organisations, and skills and expertise via boards and mentoring. 

“She fundamentally believes in the value of more female leaders, particularly in business, politics and the media. This is about optimising outcomes for Australia by ensuring that men and women together share power, leadership and decision making.”  

In addition to her work with the Trawalla Foundation, Schwartz is founding chair of Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and Our Community.

As one of Australia’s leading business identities, she also holds board roles at the Reserve Bank of Australia, Equity Trustees, Qualitas Property Partners and Skalata Ventures.

Schwartz said she was delighted and honoured to accept the award.

She said she saw philanthropy as a way to invest in ideas and leaders, and to catalyse and collaborate to create positive impact. 

“My husband Alan and I established the Trawalla Foundation in 2004 and since then we have gone on a journey from more informal and emotionally driven giving to something that is strategic and long term,” Schwartz said.

“Today we aim to use all of the levers we have access to including corpus investments, skills, networks, mentoring and advocacy, so that we can deepen the impact of the individuals and organisations that we work with.”

Schwartz told Pro Bono News that she was extremely proud of the foundation’s work founding the highly successful Pathways to Politics Program for Women with the University of Melbourne.

The program has since expanded to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), and talks are underway with UNSW.

“It’s been the most fantastic, impactful collaboration… we’ve seen [many] alumni putting themselves forward for pre-selection, and being represented at various levels of government, from local government to state government and federal government,” she said.

“It’s also been a really good example of how successful collaboration in philanthropy can be. It’s really important because it gives everyone leverage.”

With many Australian charities struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the philanthropy sector vowed to step up its support of the community sector throughout the crisis.             

A recent survey of Philanthropy Australia members found that 81 per cent of respondents have changed or adapted their funding during the pandemic, while 63 per cent have established new COVID-19 granting programs.

Schwartz said the philanthropy sector needs to dig deep and ensure the ongoing viability and success of community organisations.

“We are determined [to keep] the community sector strong and high functioning. And a lot of foundations that I know are really digging into their corpuses to make sure this remains the case,” she said. 

“So that’s really encouraging. And I’m a very optimistic person, so I hope what’s happening amongst my colleagues is actually happening on a much broader scale in the philanthropic sector.” 

Among the other award winners on Tuesday was the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and Housing Choices Australia for the Affordable Housing Challenge (Better Philanthropy Award), the Brian and Virginia McNamee Foundation and WIRE for the Purse Project (Gender-wise Philanthropy Award), and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal for the Tackling Tough Times Together program (Best Grant Program Award).

The Balnaves Foundation and Guardian Australia were also recognised with the Indigenous Philanthropy Award for their work delivering independent investigative reporting into Indigenous affairs.  

The full winners list from the 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards can be seen here.


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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