2014 was the year of the ‘mega gift’, with some of the biggest philanthropic donations ever seen in Australia’s history being made. These generous gifts are to be applauded.
These donations are timely – Oxfam has revealed that the combined wealth of the world’s richest one percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people in 2016 unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked.
Our challenge in Australian philanthropy should be to make 2015 a year in which we make an even greater impact on the great social and economic issues of our time.
Wise, strategic philanthropy can make a difference when:
- Low income Australians are grappling with low wages growth, precarious employment, a patchy labour market and rising barriers to education
- A new juncture has been reached on the path to environmental sustainability with investment in clean energy stalling, the Great Barrier Reef at a tipping point and bio-diversity diminishing
- Social cohesion is being put to the test as terror levels rise and cultural tensions simmer.
The vision of our nation characterized by shared prosperity, human rights and environmental sustainability is under intense pressure.
The community sector, on its own, has limited capacity to respond effectively to these challenges.
So it is vital that philanthropy steps up at this time to make the investments and support the projects that will advance a common good.
And there are substantial reasons to be optimistic about the future: there is a strong public debate about fairness and equity, reflecting a desire for an inclusive Australian social fabric. Initiatives such Good Pitch and The Funding Network are lifting the quality and impact of Australian philanthropy. Australians are generous funders of traditional charitable areas such as the arts and medical research but increasingly issues of justice and equity, such as the fate of asylum-seekers and the urgent need for prison reform, are attracting growing philanthropic support.
The Reichstein Foundation’s priority over the coming year will be to consolidate our efforts behind a range of outstanding community partners tackling some tough but vital social and environmental issues.
The reform of the gambling industry to limit the social harm it causes; a fair wage system to reward workers in disability enterprises across the country; systemic change in policing to end the practice of racial profiling and discrimination; and support for the environmental movement to tackle climate change and to preserve the places that Australians love will be among our key concerns.
Australian philanthropy is a powerful and growing influence in civil society. Let’s continue to strengthen its reach and impact in 2015.
Jill Reichstein OAM
Chair, Reichstein Foundation