Stories in philanthropy

2018’s Leading Philanthropist

West Australian couple, Nicola and Andrew Forrest, were named 2018 Philanthropy Leader at the recent Australian Philanthropy Awards. Accepting the award, Nicola Forrest told guests via video message that “the most important thing any of us can do is collaborate together. When we work together there’s no limit to what we can achieve.”

Nicole Richards, July 2018


For the first time, the Leading Philanthropist Award, presented at the Australian Philanthropy Awards on July 26, was awarded to a couple rather than an individual.

Introducing this year’s recipient, event MC Ann Sherry said the Award recognised the bold philanthropic ambitions and leadership of the couple who last year announced a $400 million gift and were the first Australians to sign the Giving Pledge.

“The 2018 Philanthropy Leader has helped put family philanthropy on the map, not just in Australia but globally,” Sherry said.

Though the Forrests were unable to attend the event at the Sydney Opera House, Nicola Forrest thanked the sector and Philanthropy Australia for the honour via video message, during which she urged optimism and collaboration.

“The most important thing any of us can do is collaborate together,” she told the room by video. “When we work together there’s no limit to what we can achieve.”

Speaking earlier with Philanthropy Australia’s Chief Storyteller, Nicola Forrest said one of the most valuable lessons she’d learnt in her time as a philanthropist was looking beyond grant-making.

“When our journey started we were a grant-making organisation,” Forrest said. “But what I now know, which perhaps we could have applied earlier, is that a wholistic, whole of community approach makes the biggest difference, especially when there are so many ingrained barriers to overcoming poverty and disadvantage.”

“I think more credit should go to those unsung heroes in communities who give their time and talent, and it’s not about money at all, it is about giving of themselves. I would like to see that better acknowledged and for governments and foundations to help empower communities to face their own issues and problem solve. It would be great to see more challenges tackled at that local level, with the support of philanthropy.”

In her role as CEO of the Minderoo Foundation, the Forrests’ philanthropic vehicle, Nicola Forrest has spent countless hours on site visits and in communities, hearing about the impact of philanthropy first-hand, which she says has been one of the most rewarding aspects of her giving journey.

“I think the biggest satisfaction has to be when you hear personal stories and witness the success of people rising up,” Forrest said.

“I have vivid memories of VTEC graduations where families who had been four generations unemployed, had members who were suddenly working and providing for their families. There was one young single mother who told me that she was being taught how to read by her five-year-old child who had gone through an education program. To see intergenerational change that will have a lasting difference on whole communities, that is a very satisfying thing.”

Intergenerational philanthropy has been another key component of the Forrests’ wide-ranging philanthropic impact, with daughter Grace co-founding the Walk Free Foundation whose mission is to end modern slavery.

From a family viewpoint, Nicola Forrest said the involvement of the next generation in the family’s giving has been tremendously rewarding.

“Getting your children engaged in areas they are interested in, will only add enormous depth to your giving and strength to your family,” she said.

Collaboration has been a hallmark of the Forrests’ philanthropic approach and has become more pronounced with each passing year. Nicola Forrest says it is the only way we, as a sector and more broadly as a society, will achieve lasting change on intractable issues.

“Unless we approach problems in a collaborative way – and that means business, government and civil society together – we are going to struggle to overcome the major underlying challenges we face, such as chronic unemployment,” Nicola said. “To give people opportunity and hope we all need to work together.

“Philanthropy is the glue that brings everyone together, because it can be more flexible and strategic, and that is why it is so important.

“We can do things business and governments can’t, but we can bring them along if we all work together.”



Helping others is the most satisfying thing you can do in life: Nicola Forrest

Co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation, Nicola Forrest, talks about the Forrests’ extraordinary philanthropic journey including the Giving Pledge, knowing how much is enough, the importance of challenging the norm, bringing people together, and why she’s excited about the next generation of change-makers.

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