21/10/2010 - 00:00

Little angels part of cultural change

21/10/2010 - 00:00


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THE Australian dollar may have reached parity with its American counterpart, but the levels of philanthropy in Australia are not in the same ballpark as those in the US.

THE Australian dollar may have reached parity with its American counterpart, but the levels of philanthropy in Australia are not in the same ballpark as those in the US.

While the wealthiest individuals in the US give, on average, 14.5 per cent of their annual income to charitable causes, in Australia the sum is between one and 4 per cent.

Considering there are 3,000 Australians with fortunes over $20 million, we may be a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to giving, although the number of private ancillary funds and ensuing donors is growing.

Artsupport Australia WA manager James Boyd told WA Business News the Private Ancillary Fund scheme put in place by the Howard government in 2002 had encouraged a greater degree of philanthropy across the country.

Artsupport Australia works to develop philanthropic giving to the cultural sector nationwide and, since it started under the guise of Australia Council for the Arts, has brokered $45 million in philanthropic giving, $2 million of that in WA, since 2008.

Twenty PAFs were opened in WA last year, according to Mr Boyd, who said while it may be growing, philanthropy in Australia would most likely never reach the same relative levels as in the US, given the differences in the way the culture of giving has been encouraged in the two countries.

“The initiatives in America were entrepreneur led, philanthropy was part of its makeup, whereas in Australia it has been government led. For that reason philanthropy has been a lot slower to grow in Australia,” he said.

“Because philanthropy has grown in very different ways [between the two countries], the foundations are very different.”

He said the early American industrialists built cultural infrastructure proactively, rather than waiting for government to do it, which led to the strong philanthropic culture in America.

“It is a culture, but it is a culture that can be learnt,” Mr Boyd said.

Notable WA philanthropist Ros Worthington is one woman trying to bring this learning into effect with her Love Angels Foundation.

Love Angels is based around the idea of educating young children and adolescents about the concept of philanthropy in an accessible way through colouring-in Love Angel cardboard cut-outs, which they then sell for a dollar. Donations go to an orphanage in Afghanistan and another in Bali.

“I believe if we can take our children now and teach them these values at this early age, and a lot of them already have these values, and teach them there is someone on the other side of the world that needs our help,” Ms Worthington said.

“The whole thrust behind it is teaching the children philanthropy, teaching them to pay it forward. We call it paying it forward to young children because philanthropy is too big a word.

“It is teaching children the values of compassion, caring and kindness.”

Ms Worthington said she stood by the decision to make people overseas the beneficiaries of Love Angels’ work

“People say to me ‘what about here in WA’? I think we are incredibly blessed in Australia, and so I am not about giving money to Australian children, I am about educating Australian children and getting them to pay it forward,” she said.

“I am strong on that and I often get challenged on it.

“To me it is educating our children they are very lucky with what they have and it is something they should grow up doing, paying it forward.’’



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