Andrew and Nicola Forrest are recognised as two of Western Australia’s most prominent philanthropists, but recent developments in Canberra show their influence on social policy continues to spread.
Mrs Forrest will attend the second meeting of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership on Thursday, May 28.
The partnership was re-established by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in October last year to promote a culture of philanthropic giving and volunteering in Australia.
(A similar body was established by former prime minister John Howard in 2001, until being disbanded in 2007.)
The only other WA member is Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Christian Porter.
The Community Business Partnership also includes Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, who announced this month that Mr Forrest’s review of indigenous jobs and training, handed down last August, had resulted in a shift in funding priorities.
Mr Morrison said the federal government would provide $327 million over four years to provide targeted support to disadvantaged or vulnerable families.
This would include $20 million for the integration of childcare, maternal and child health, and family support services in a number of disadvantaged indigenous communities, as recommended in the Forrest review.
Early childhood development has been a significant focus area for the Forrests’ Minderoo Foundation, notably through their support for the Challis Parenting and Early Learning Centre in Armadale.
Minderoo commissioned the Telethon Kids Institute to evaluate the impact of the Challis centre last year.
Its report found the centre had significantly improved the performance of its students by offering integrated support services to local families and children from birth.
The Challis centre has been used as a model by the WA government, which is opening 16 similar centres across the state.
“Every dollar invested in a child’s early education will generate a seven-fold return in improved productivity and less need for welfare and other services later,” Mrs Forrest said.
This approach accords with the work of the Community Business Partnership.
Its members have emphasised the need for high-quality evidence on trends, innovation and best practice in the philanthropic sector.
It will consider how innovative investment and financing can better support a culture of giving and volunteering in Australia, and will investigate incentives and barriers to philanthropic giving.
The Minderoo Foundation allocated $23.9 million to its philanthropic focus areas in 2013-14.