Standing beside film star Russell Crowe, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the single biggest philanthropic donation in Australian history – from the family of mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.
“Every dollar we spend, the government spends, will buy as much as a dollar that a philanthropist like Nicola and Andrew give,” Turnbull told the event attended by senior government figures, including Tony Abbott and Labor frontbenchers.
“But what you give and what other philanthropists give and what other people whom you will inspire give, comes with their love.”
Thousands will be impacted by the investment, which will go towards the causes of cancer research, childhood education and ending modern slavery, the prime minister said.
Forrest, the chairman of Fortescue, hopes all Australians can give, noting time is just as valuable as dollars.
“We encourage others to give what they can – recognising it’s a very personal choice – like I have been encouraged by the Gates and the Buffetts and others of the world,” he later told reporters.
His wife Nicola said their gift would never replace billions of dollars of government funding but it could help highlight areas where a bit of risk-taking is needed.
“What this donation does is it allows us to challenge the norm, to try new ways.”
Crowe, who hosted the event, said Australia has a long history of giving but this was unprecedented.
“This is an extraordinary example to put up in front of people and encourage other people who have fortune and success like Andrew to step forward and do the same thing,” he told reporters.
Fellow actor Jack Thompson said Forrest’s investment will bring more Australians together and eliminate the artificial divisions within the community.
Such generous philanthropy will also give Indigenous Australians the encouragement to provide stronger pathways to parity, indigenous campaigner Jacinta Price said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten cited Martin Luther King’s claim of the most urgent question of life: ‘what are you doing for others’.
“There can be no doubt that Andrew and Nicola and (their daughter) Grace have answered this question in a most Forrest-like fashion,” he said.
The donation will be distributed across the couple’s key causes:
- $75 million for co-ordinating world cancer institutes to make lethal cancer history for the coming generation.
- $50 million towards building stronger communities.
- $75 million for higher education and breakthrough research.
- $75 million towards giving every child their best chance.
- $50 million towards creating equality of opportunity among all Australians.
- $75 million towards removing modern slavery from human history.
The Forrests established the Minderoo Foundation in 2001, supporting more than 250 initiatives both within Australia and internationally.
With the help of their daughter they also founded the Walk Free Foundation in 2012, which aims to end slavery.
This year, Forrest was Western Australia’s finalist for Australian of the Year.
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