Mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his wife, Nicola Forrest, have made history today with a $400 million pledge the prime minister has called a ‘game changer’.
The money will be directed to six main areas, including cancer research, arts, community and the environment, and early childhood.
Announcing the news this morning, Malcolm Turnbull said it was the biggest single philanthropic gift in the country’s history and the largest donation by living Australians. In 2014, Australian businessman Paul Ramsay left a philanthropic bequest of more than $3 billion.
Mr Turnbull said the pledge was a game changer in the Australian philanthropic community that would change the lives of thousands of people not just locally, but around the world.
Mr Forrest, the founder, former chief executive and current chair of Fortescue Metals Group, said he wanted to encourage more Australians to give, not just their money, but to consider their time, energy and other resources.
“It can be easy to give with your heart because there is so much need, particularly in vulnerable communities,” Mr Forrest said.
“The challenge is to give with your heart, mind and soul; to give cleverly so maximum impact is achieved over the longer term, and to give wisely so that your own values are reflected.”
Established by Mr and Mrs Forrest in 2001, the Minderoo Foundation has supported more than 250 projects across a diverse range of industries, including education, health and indigenous affairs, and today’s $400 million funding will in part capitalise on and expand on the work of the foundation.
Mrs Forrest said today’s gift would never replace the billions of dollars provided by government, but it could help highlight areas where some risk-taking was needed.
“What this donation does is it allows us to challenge the norm, to try new ways,” she said.
The $400 million will be dispersed across six key areas: $75 million for early childhood initiatives; $75 million towards removing modern slavery from human history; seed capital of $75 million for coordinating world cancer institutions and the specialisation of research and the expedition of cures; $50 million for education, training and employment initiatives to create equal opportunity amongst all Australians; $50 million towards building stronger communities through supporting arts, cultural, environmental and community organisations; and $75 million for the support of higher education and breakthrough research through the provision of scholarships and facilities throughout Australia.
Part of the latter $75 million for higher education includes a $65 million contribution to the Forrest Research Foundation, which was established in 2014 following a pledge of $65 million over 10 years by Minderoo.
The Forrest Research Foundation is a partnership with all five Western Australian universities and is hosted within the University of Western Australia, with the aim of driving world-class research and innovation in the state via the awarding of scholarships.
The funding announced today will be used to expand the foundation and double the number of PhD scholars and postgraduate research fellows to 60, supporting scholars and fellows at all five of the state’s universities.
The additional donation will raise the Forrests’ total contribution to UWA’s ‘new century campaign’ to $130 million.
Collectively, the two gifts represent the largest contribution by private individuals to Australian higher education.
UWA vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater was in Canberra today to attend the announcement, along with a range of other stakeholders representing the various sectors that would benefit from the new funding, including Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research director Peter Leedman.
Professor Freshwater said endowments accounted for a large proportion of the new century campaign, and that the Forrests’ latest gift was helping to secure the institution’s future.
“The Forrests have shown incredible foresight and generosity with these gifts; they believe in the power of new knowledge and of universities to change the world,” she said.
“Investing in something you can’t entirely see but know to be true and vital takes courage.
“It takes a belief in people, including great faith in the brilliant Australian and international minds who will fund solutions, right here in WA, to global challenges.”
The Minderoo Foundation is one of the 57 philanthropic foundations based in Western Australia that contributed about $118 million into the community during the past financial year, according to research undertaken by Business News.
Of the total funds distributed, Minderoo Foundation accounted for $19.4 million.
Other WA philanthropic family foundations to make the BNiQ Search Engine’s top 10 philanthropic foundations list included: the Sarich Neuroscience Institute of Western Australia Trust ($19.5 million); the Martin Copley Will Trust ($6.8 million); the McCusker Charitable Foundation ($5 million); Stan Perron Charitable Trust ($4 million); and the Rinehart Family Medical Foundation ($2.7 million).