Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest gave $400 million to charity today, the single largest philanthropic donation by a living person in Australian history. Anna Spraggett, Think HQ Account Director, hopes it’s a sign of times to come.
There was a lot of attention on Andrew ‘ Twiggy’ Forrest today when he announced he was giving away $400 million to tackle cancer research, Indigenous disadvantage, the elimination of modern slavery and education. He was, after all, flanked by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who applauded his donation as a “gift to humanity”, and Opposition leader Bill Shorten. It’s harder to get higher company.
It’s a positive sign that Forrest’s gift has been treated so positively, and his message, that everyone should “give what you can, if it isn’t money then time is just as valuable,” is bang on.
It shows that Australia is moving in the right direction. This gift is important and people are talking about it. The more open we are about this, the better. Hopefully this means that we’re moving past Australia’s traditional philanthropy model of gifts given behind closed doors. Public gifts and conversation will ultimately help us build a culture of giving here in Australia, giving everyone the license to give what they can.
Because, as important as these big gifts are, on their own they risk reinforcing a message that philanthropy is only for the rich, which plays into the reason people are nervous promoting their giving here – tall poppy syndrome.
It came out a little today. If you checked social media you’d see people attacking Forrest for not having paid enough tax, profiting off the land, or just generally being too rich.
We need to get past this. Whatever you think of Andrew Forrest, this is a generous act. Philanthropy is the giving of time, talent and treasure, and people should give just because they want to. Our culture should show them how, and support them, because it does feel good to give.
And as exciting as today’s gift is, what I’m really excited for is the conversation to come, looking at the impact. Let’s look at what Forrest’s gift does – and the incredible things he’s already done. Let’s tell those stories. Showing people what philanthropy can achieve - that’s what will motivate people to get involved.
Because we can’t all be Twiggy Forrest, but we can all be generous.
Anna Spraggett is an Account Director at Think HQ with more than 20 years’ experience in the philanthropic and not-for-profit sectors.