Philanthropy leader honoured at conference

One of Australia’s best-known philanthropists, David Gonski AC, has been made a life member of Philanthropy Australia.

David’s addition to the list of PA life members coincides with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs), of which he was a key instigator, working with the Howard government on the much-lauded innovation.

David Gonski AC

Now, there are more than 1,800 PAFs in Australia and it’s estimated they hold $10 billion in assets and make grants of approximately $450 million a year.

The creation of PAFs (formally prescribed private funds) has reshaped philanthropy in Australia and given businesses, families and individuals greater flexibility to start their own trusts for philanthropic purposes and to properly structure their giving.

David’s distinguished career of public service includes being Chancellor of UNSW for many years and the Chairman of the UNSW Foundation and President of the Art Gallery Trust. He’s also a Director of Australian Philanthropic Services; a member of the Adara Partnership; Patron of the Raise Foundation; and Patron of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. His previous roles include Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Centre for Social Impact; Member of the Prime Minister’s Community business Partnership and Member of the Committee of Inquiry into Charitable and Related Organisations.

In conferring the honour, Philanthropy Australia CEO Jack Heath said David had always been a champion of philanthropy who had been uninhibited in speaking about the joy of giving. “David chose to go public with his own philanthropy in the hope his example would inspire others to give, and it has,” Jack said.

 “Most importantly, he has advocated for more philanthropy because of the joy that flows from helping others. We need more people to follow David’s lead if we are to deliver on Philanthropy Australia’s aspiration to double structured giving to $5 billion per year by 2030.”

David said he was honoured to receive the life membership and spoke about how philanthropy had not only brough him joy but also broadened him. “It’s allowed a lawyer cum-merchant banker to contribute to society in a strong way,’’ David said.

His family moved to Sydney from Cape Town in South Africa after the Sharpeville Massacre where 69 black activists were killed by local police. David was seven, and the eldest of four children when the family arrived in Australia. His father was a neurosurgeon and his mother a kindergarten teacher.

By the age of 23, David was already making a contribution, on the board of the Roma School for the Disabled.  “The kids there got into my heart,” he said some years later. “And the irony was that the more I did for them, the more reward I got. Whether it be the smile of a child, the glow of the parents … it opened my eyes.”

In his book, I Gave A Gonski, published six years ago David outlined his approach to philanthropy. “I am not naïve. I don’t believe that money on its own can solve all problems. Philanthropy can, however, assist and, more importantly (another reason I was keen to get involved), is it can help to bridge the gap between those of us who have been fortunate in the cards we have been dealt and those who have not,’’ he said.

“I believe that there are two aspects to giving, both equally important. The giving itself has a huge benefit, but in addition to that, giving enables the fortunate amongst us to actually do something to try to solve some of society’s problems, and to be seen to do so.’’

David is the 12th Philanthropy Australia life member. See other life members here.

On 5-6 May, after time to reflect and refresh, we will come back together online for two days of interactive, inspiring workshops. Participants will actively discuss, collaborate and think strategically as we collectively explore what the future needs from us, now. Register here.

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