Not for Profit - Sir Charles lends name to Fairbridge raising

A LITTLE more than 90 years ago Fairbridge Farm, north of Pinjarra, welcomed the very first Fairbridge children – 13 poor children from underprivileged parts of England. It was the start of an ambitious plan to train youth for life in Western Australia’s rural community. Over the decades Fairbridge has continued its work in a variety of ways, a fact recognised this month when 50 of WA’s key business people and philanthropists gathered to launch the Sir Charles Court Sustainability Fund. Described as one of WA’s most ambitious fund-raising programs, the fund has a goal of raising $6 million over the next 18 months for the purpose of ensuring Fairbridge’s continued existence. The Pinjarra village is the last remaining Fairbridge site in the world, despite nearly closing its doors in 1994. But in May 1997 under the guidance of its governing board, the village began a redevelopment program under which over two thirds of the site has been fully restored. Since then the number of young people accessing the site has increased from 5,000 to more than 150,000 a year. According to Fairbridge chief executive Mark Anderson, Sir Charles Court was chosen to represent the fund because of similarities between the Fairbridge founder Kingsley Fairbridge, and Sir Charles’ involvement with young people through the Sir Charles Court Young Leaders Program, inaugurated in 1999. "Kingsley Fairbridge established the very first Fairbridge Village in Western Australia near Pinjarra in 1912 to provide a home for young people who needed hope and opportunities. "A further seven were built around the world, however, sadly, this one is the only one left. That’s what makes this village so important as an international heritage precinct," Mr Anderson said. In a letter to the Governor John Sanderson made public, Sir Charles expressed his enthusiastic support for the fund. "I willingly agree to my name being used as part of this great step forward to implement a plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Fairbridge activities in Western Australia", Sir Charles says in the letter. Annual maintenance costs for the 55 or so buildings within Fairbridge Village, built between 1920 and 1935, run at more than $350,000. The fund will use $500,000 of the expected $6 million raised for immediate maintenance of the village, with the rest being tied to investments to generate future income. The fund launch at the Government House ballroom resulted in some key organisations committing substantial amounts of funding, according to Mr Anderson. The inaugural founding member of the fund was Alcoa, in addition to five other founding members. A significant personal contribution also came from the chair of the Fairbridge Corporate Working Group, Ross Neumann, which was announced on the day of the launch. "This has provided a solid basis for the launch of the fund which we hope will establish opportunities for future members to come on board," Mr Anderson said.

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