AN attempt to coordinate a mining giant’s giving activities along with the need to deflect some negative sentiment has created a future-looking not for profit player.
The Rio Tinto Future Fund was born in 2001, driven by Rio Tinto general manager external affairs Bruce Larson.
It gives about $2 million a year and has investments in 23 projects.
Those projects are run on a partnership basis and are aimed at bettering the State’s future.
Mr Larson said the fund had come out of some research work the company did when it bought Robe River Iron Ore from North Limited.
“The fund was an acknowledgment that we didn’t have a corporate approach to our giving programs,” he said.
“We wanted a specific fund that was future focused.”
Mr Larson said Rio Tinto had also been coming under fire at the time for its purchase of Robe.
“We’d been thinking about the fund approach for some time but it was also driven by the harsh words from Government when we bought Robe,” he said.
Fund manager Tania Hudson said it was looking at projects that could “help WA grow and prosper”.
“We want projects that bring together different parts of the community,” she said.
“Some of our projects are government plus business plus the community.”
“We try to be all encompassing. It’s a WA-wide fund even though the bulk of Rio’s business is in the North West.”
Ms Hudson said the projects had to be for the good of the community and it would be rare for the fund to back something that was for personal gain – no matter how worthy.
“We also don’t fund capital works and tend to avoid short-term projects,” she said.
Projects for the fund are considered by its six-member board that is made up of Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Chris Renwick (chairman), Dampier Salt managing director Adam Parr, Mr Larson, Alinta chairman Tony Howarth, Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson and Fremantle Port Authority CEO Kerry Sanderson.
Some of the projects the fund backs are generated from within Rio Tinto and some come from the community.
Ms Hudson said people often contacted the fund with ideas.
“They put together a submission and the board assesses it,” she said.
“As a guide, we’ve said the projects have to clearly articulate the benefits to WA.”
Ms Hudson said the fund was looking for partners that would work with it.
“They have to be willing and able to be on a grants program,” she said.
The fund currently has investments in:
Kid’s’ Science State with Scitech – a five-year program to inspire, educate and excite primary school students about science;
Rio Tinto WA Future Volunteers with Conservation Volunteers Australia to establish a presence and implement a number of environmental projects in north western WA;
Vision WA, a seminar series in conjunction with the University of WA;
The Smith Family’s Learning for Life youth education program;
The Kalgoorlie Mining Hall of Fame – funding for two education officers;
Bio Maps with the Australian Museum, the WA Museum, the Department of Conservation and Land Management and the Premier’s Sustainability Unit;
Rio Tinto Volunteer Management Scheme, a three-year program with the WA Department of Sport and Recreation addressing the issues relating to the decline and effective management of volunteers, including those in rural or regional areas;
Stepping Stones with Greening Australia, a two-year pilot program to revegetate a large area of metropolitan bushland;
Foodbank, to support its Welshpool and Geraldton facilities;
The Shire of Roebourne Youth Development Officer;
Rockingham Regional Environment Centre – Naragebup to develop a five-year plan to ensure its sustainability;
Northern Exposure with Disability in the Arts, Disadvantaged in the Arts and Industry;
Designing Futures with Craftwest to build on the strength’s of WA’s timber industry;
Indigenous Work History of WA with researchers from five WA universities led by Murdoch University;
NEWROC Salinity with the North Eastern Wheatbelt Regional Organisation of Councils;
Telecentre Support Unit with the Department of Local Government and Regional Development;
Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo, a habitat program focused on establishing provenance seed stock and restoring the habitat needed for the species’ long-term survival;
Operation Leo with the WA Museum to research and capitalise on the finding of the 46,000 year old remains of a marsupial lion;
Kojonup Working, to create sustainable local employment, business development and skills enhancement to address issues related to rural decline;
Carnarvon Youth Officer to address issues related to safety, youth and social problems in the town;
Rio Tinto Aboriginal Child Health Initiative with the Institute of Child Health Research;
Jigalong Aboriginal Community to prepare a feasibility study to assess its potential to become a local government authority; and
Leadership WA, which provides experiential programs for emerging leaders in WA.
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