Jane Nethercote and Marika Webb-Pullman write:

The BRW Rich List is all about who gets the most – but isn’t it time to start looking at who gives the most?

To get the ball rolling, Crikey has compiled a list of Australian philanthropists who donate publicly, a list which is inevitably incomplete because it doesn’t include many people who give their donations anonymously.

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What we do know is that the 20 wealthiest Americans have, over time, on average given away about 15% of their wealth, according to philanthropy researcher Denis Tracey. By this measure, wealthy Australians don’t come close. And it’s not just that Australians are more discreet in their giving – after all, says Daniel Petre of the Petre Foundation, if you extrapolated from the BRW list it would become obvious that this kind of money isn’t getting out.

Indeed. According to today’s BRW, the rich 200 are sitting on more than $100 billion in wealth. If only 1% of this money were donated, that would pour $1 billion onto the philanthropy market. Where is this money? Sadly, with a few notable exceptions, “rich Australians are pretty stingy”, says Tracey.

Here are a few who aren’t (listed alphabetically):

Jack Bendat. The West Australian entrepreneur pledged $5 million to build a Comprehensive Cancer Centre for Western Australia in 2004. He’s also given $3 million towards the construction of five Bendat Houses and the Passages Resource Centre for homeless youth and paid an undisclosed amount recently for a controlling stake in the Perth Wildcats to keep them afloat and training in Western Australia. BRW: $550 million.

John B Fairfax/Timothy Fairfax. The media magnates gave a total of $300,000 in cash and in kind to the tsunami appeal. They’re patrons of the arts, including the portrait collection at the National Gallery; donated between $25,000 and $49,999 to the Queensland Museum Foundation; support the Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal; and the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation donated $3 million in grants in 2005. BRW: $1.1 billion.

The Besen Family. Long history of philanthropy. In 2005, the annual disbursement of the Besen Family Trust was $2 million according to Philanthropy Australia. Melbourne’s Mount Scopus College has a Besen Performing Arts Centre in recognition of their financial contributions. BRW: $1.6 billion.

Andrew Forrest. In 2001, the mining entrepreneur negotiated a $3.5-million payout by Anaconda, not for him, but for his new charity for underprivileged children, Leaping Joey, according to Four Corners. BRW: $810 million.

Lindsay Fox. Hard to know the extent of the transport king’s generosity. “We don’t talk about what we do”, he told George Negus when asked whether he was a philanthropist. Is said to have made large donations to alma mater Melbourne High School. Also a generous donor to Melbourne’s Scotch College. BRW: $1.07 billion.

John Gandel. Australia’s second-richest shopping centre owner after Frank Lowy. The Gandel Charitable Trust gives away in excess of one million dollars each year, says Philanthropy Australia (the full amount is not disclosed.) The Gandel name appears alongside those of Smorgon, Besen, Lew and Pratt in various different donation registers. Melbourne’s Mount Scopus College named its Burwood campus after the Gandel family in recognition of their generosity. BRW: $1.8 billion.

Reg Grundy. In 2004, Reg and wife Joy donated $500,000 to NIDA through the Grundy Foundation. BRW: $766 million.

Solomon Lew. History of philanthropy with wife Rosie. Individual donors to Victoria’s Arts Centre.Founding governors of the Peter Mac Foundation. Donation in 2002 to Peter Mac listed as being over $1,000 (the highest category). Mrs Lew, who generated a total of $2.2 million in donations toward research at the Peter Mac, received the 1995 Peter MacCallum Award. Life trustees of Mount Scopus College. Looked like Sol Lew might engage in a spot of philanthropy last year by buying Myer, but another philanthropic set eventually snapped it up: The Myer Family. BRW: $950 million.

Frank Lowy.
The Westfield Shopping Centre king outlaid $30 million to create his own think tank, The Lowy Institute for International Policy. Think vanity philanthropy – and a generous concept of philanthropy. Contributions of time and money to the Football Federation of Australia. In December 2002, Philanthropy Australia listed Frank Lowy as Australia’s leading philanthropist, with donations that year of $10 million.
BRW: $5.8 billion.

Bruce Mathieson. Donation from Victoria’s pokies king of $150,000 to Very Special Kids in 2003. BRW: $850 million.

The Myer family. In 2004-05, the Sidney Myer Fund awarded $3,483,253 worth of grants and the Myer Foundation gave $3,753,592. To date, the foundations have given a total of $89,747,605 (not adjusted to current day values). BRW: $1.15 billion.

The Packers. What we do know: Kerry Packer donated $30 million to cancer research in the states, $10 million to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney and $2.5 million to the NSW Ambulance Service ensuring every ambulance in NSW would be fitted with a portable defibrillator after he suffered a heart attack in 1990. BRW: (James Packer): $7.1 billion.

Stan Perron. The property magnate’s Charitable Trust is involved in helping over 100 different organisations. It’s a partner in Kidney Health Australia, a patron of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of WA and a supporter of the PREMB Milk Bank. It also donated $500,000 to the Association of the Blind in WA in 2004 and $50,000 to the Red Cross Tsunami Appeal as well as numerous other, smaller donations to organizations including the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and The Lupus Association. BRW: $1.2 billion

Greg Poche. The founder and owner of Star Track Express gave a whopping $32.5 million to The Mater Hospital, North Sydney in December 2005 to construct a Melanoma Unit, the largest known donation to a single cause by a single donor in Australian history. BRW: $761 million.

Richard and Jeannie Pratt. According to Philanthropy Australia, The Pratt Foundation is the most generous private/independent foundation in Australia today with an annual disbursement of $12 million. According to BRW, Richard provided seed funding for the Australian Conservation Foundation to form a business leaders’ roundtable on climate change. BRW: $5.2 billion.

Ralph Sarich. In 2004, the West Australian inventor of the orbital engine, gave $1 million to the Salvation Army. BRW: $790 million.

The Smorgons. Prolifically philanthropic but hard to estimate what this contribution amounts to in dollar terms. Major benefactors of the Victorian Arts Centre and Player Patrons for the MSO. Supporters of the Australian Council for Children and Youth Organisations, the Sony Foundation, and have a building named after them at the Peter Mac Centre. Life trustees at the Mount Scopus Memorial College, and patrons of the arts (Loti & Victor Smorgon Gallery at the National Gallery; The Loti and Victor Smorgon Collection of Contemporary Australian Art given to the MCA in 1995). There’s a Smorgon Family nursing home, and a $30,000 bequest each year towards the Premier’s Award for Research. The list goes on. BRW: $2.4 billion

Anyone we’ve missed? Email Jane.nethercote@privatemedia.com.au

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