21/05/2008 - 22:00

Dawn of a new era in philanthropy

21/05/2008 - 22:00


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Arts groups and charities in Western Australia have long argued that the state lacks the culture of giving evident in larger capitals such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Dawn of a new era in philanthropy

Arts groups and charities in Western Australia have long argued that the state lacks the culture of giving evident in larger capitals such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Yet the local fundraising sector believes things are changing, thanks largely to the state's mining boom and two high-profile donations from magnates of that industry.

Clive Palmer's $100 million gift to WA medical research and Andrew Forrest's $80 million share gift to his foundation, the Australian Children's Trust, have raised the bar for charitable giving in WA, according to Xponential Group director Brian Holmes.

"I certainly think that's put philanthropy on the map in WA this year, in terms of everyone knowing about [the donations] and setting a precedent for others to be more philanthropic," Mr Holmes said.

And while some individuals known for their philanthropy continue to give - such as Stan Perron, who put $500,000 towards the Association for the Blind campaign last year - a new generation is emerging.

This is exemplified by Luke Saraceni's $3 million donation to the Ear Science Institute - one of the biggest fundraising gifts in 2007.

"That was interesting because he's not the next generation [of family wealth], he's self-made," Mr Holmes said.

"Also, in some of the wealthiest families, the next generation is taking control of the business and starting to make decisions in a philanthropic sense." While WA's universities and medical research groups continue to attract the biggest donations, the arts sector has started to gain some ground, with the Art Gallery of WA's $10 million campaign understood to have already received several pledges of $1 million.

Other groups have found ways to institutionalise the culture of giving, pioneered by the West Australian Symphonic Orchestra and its fouryear philanthropy program.

According to WASO's executive manager of development, James Boyd, the program has been very successful as donations are reaching a total of $1 million.

However, Mr Boyd believes arts philanthropy in WA still has a long way to go.

"Philanthropy is really going to become more important to the arts for the coming five to 10 years," Mr Boyd said.

"The opportunity for philanthropy is there and often it comes down to connecting with your supporters; it's a matter of having a mechanism of asking them to support you." But working those mechanisms requires a full-time position for arts organisations, which are often understaffed, according to the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts director, Amy Barrett-Lennard, who just appointed a new staff member dedicated to developing its giving program.

Among the state's major arts philanthropists is Janet Holmes à Court, who is a patron of WASO and owns three musical instruments valued at between $100,000 and $1 million each.

Among others is the Bendat Family Foundation, which set up a $150,000 fund for the WA Opera young artists program.

Charles and Caroline Morgan pledged $50,000 a year for the next three years for PICA's young graduates show, Hatched National Graduate Show.

The Perth Theatre Trust is currently developing its own philanthropy program, with the West Australian Opera having started its own 16 months ago.


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