First Nations Engagement at Philanthropy Australia

Learn more about how we engage with First Nations peoples at Philanthropy Australia.

Our journey to support more and better giving for First Nations organisations and communities began in 1999 with the inaugural Indigenous Infinity Group, now the First Nations Funders Peer Network. Since then, we have continued to bring together like-minded funders to have honest conversations about Philanthropy’s responsibility to support self-determination for First Nations communities. We have sought to look inward to our own practice and role in the system as a Peak body, an Intermediatory and a Thought Leader, and to listen to our First Nations partners and friends to create change together.

Our First Nations engagement to achieve more and better philanthropy for First Nations communities and organisations is multifaceted.

Our Reflect RAP provides us with a framework to look inward to our own systems and build relationships with First Nations partners and communities.

First Nations Funders Peer Network

From its beginnings in 1999, our First Nations Funders Peer Network has grown into the most subscribed of all of Philanthropy Australia’s Peer Networks. The network’s purpose is to create opportunities for more philanthropic funds to be directed towards First Nations communities and organisations, and to promote better practice to support meaningful relationships that lead to significant outcomes. It comes together roughly quarterly in-person and online to hear from experts and learn from peers. In 2019, PA actively sought out Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership for this group and Rick Macourt, Gumbaynggirr man, and Adele Peek, Yawuru/Bunuba woman were the inaugural Co-Chairs.

The Network is currently Chaired by Adrian Appo, Gureng Gureng man and First Nations Investment, Yajilarra Trust and Leah Armstrong, Torres Strait Islander woman, Managing Director, First Australians Capital.

  • Adrian Appo is a Gooreng Gooreng man from South East Queensland. He joined Yajilarra Trust in 2021 and works on their First Nations investment and 10 year spend down strategy. Previously, Adrian was founding Chief Executive Officer of Ganbina (an Indigenous school-to-work transition program); founding Co-Chair of First Australians Capital; founding Board member of Children’s Ground and founding Board member of the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE). He also holds a number of board positions.
  • Leah Armstrong, a Torres Strait Islander, is a senior professional with over 25 year’s business and not for profit experience. Throughout these years Leah has led the establishment and growth of some of the premier national Indigenous economic organisations and currently Leah is leading First Australians Capital in innovating how Indigenous enterprises access capital and support. This includes an ambitious Indigenous-led and managed impact investment fund. Leah currently serves on several Boards including a Trustee of The Nature Conservancy (Australia), Reserve Bank of Australia – Chairperson First Nations Advisory Group, Philanthropy Australia (PA) – member of the First Nations Governance Committee and Co-Chair of the First Nations Funders Network.

    Leah has a strong demonstrated track record in achieving organisational results through the creation and maintenance of strong networks and stakeholder relationships and by working collaboratively with governments, community and the private sector and past senior roles include Director of Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle (2017 – 2019), CEO of Reconciliation Australia (2010-2014) and co-founder/Managing Director of Yarnteen Ltd (1992-2009) — a successful Indigenous enterprise operating several commercial and social ventures.

Philanthropy Australia has publicly supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the call for constitutional recognition through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Philanthropy Australia public statement

Philanthropic Support for the Yes Campaign

Philanthropy’s Support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart