Guest Post - Myth: Australians are Generous

(Guest blogger Peter Winneke was recently featured in The Age newspaper’s The Zone. Philanthropy Australia invited Peter to talk about that experience and expand on the issues covered there).

Myth: Australians are Generous

by Peter Winneke

We constantly perpetuate the myth that Australians are generous. But is this actually the case? I was recently interviewed for a piece in The Zone for “The Age” newspaper in Melbourne. Whilst I pointed out that Volunteering Australia tell us that Australians have a high rate of volunteerism (compared to other OECD countries) and that there are many generous Australians, it is a myth that Australians are generous as:

  • on average we gift only 0.4% of income to charity
  • 65% of Australians (8 million of 12.6 million individual taxpayers) make no gift to charity
  • of the 7,905 Australians who earned >$1 million, 37% made no gift to charity

(Source: ATO analysis from 2007/08 individual tax returns.)

And of course it is the affluent that are letting us down. Research by The Petre Foundation suggests that the affluent here are giving significantly less than some western world contemporaries. What to do? It is time we had a frank discussion on the issue of our financial generosity, and then took steps to build a culture of giving. This could be assisted by developing a ‘Giving Campaign’ (as done in the UK in 2001), establishing a Charities Commision to (amongst other things) help promote trust in the NFP sector and also provide the philanthropic sector’s peak body, Philanthropy Australia, with deductible gift recipient status to assist it raise funds to better promote the sector. We must also encourage the affluent to give more consideration to how much is left to the children.

What will the article in The Zone achieve? Probably little. If you read the 68 comments from readers (see above link) , not surprisingly you will see the usual defensive nature of Australians providing a multitude of reasons not to give. Depressing stuff! However, its prominence might get the issue publicly discussed a little more. I believe more sector leaders need to speak out on the issue, including Philanthropy Australia. There is too much polite conversation around the issue. If we don’t act the sector will continue to be an immaterial size with a slow growth rate, as opposed to becoming a key player in the NFP sector with the ability to be a powerful change agent.

Apr. 07, 2011

 Tags: statistics, recommended reading, news, general

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