Philanthropy Around The World: Spotlight On Australia

Australia is frequently criticised for not having particularly ‘giving’ culture, particularly compared to other First World countries such as the US. The reality, however, is that philanthropy is growing in both profile and activity compared to a decade ago.

Philanthropic and charitable giving in Australia is tax deductible. Despite this – and perhaps where the criticism comes from – there are still a group of people who can afford to give, but don’t.

By way of comparison, in the US only 10% of people who earn more than $1 million a year don’t give, while in Australia, around 40% of people who earn more than $1 million don’t make any donations.

Philanthropy Australia, a non-profit organisation focused on achieving more and better philanthropy in the country, has played a key role in the evolution of giving in the country. It provides a collective voice to its membership community which includes funders, social investors, for-purpose organisations and change agents and uses its voice to advocate for policy and regulatory environments that enable more philanthropy with impact.

In addition to hosting a biennial national philanthropy conference, it also hosts the annual Australian Philanthropy Awards which recognises the best of visionary, high impact and transformative philanthropy.

In 2018, Philanthropy Australia launched the Better Giving Hub, a platform designed to build a larger community of practice that allows philanthropists across the country to connect, share and build a repository of knowledge and resources.

The organisation has also helped to map out the philanthropy ecosystem in the country through Foundation Maps Australia, an interactive and searchable map which shows who is funding what, and where. This is significant as giving has traditionally been conducted discreetly and frequently anonymously in Australia. In fact, it was only in 2014 that some of the country’s wealthiest families started making large philanthropic donations more publicly.

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest was the first Australian to sign the global ‘Giving Pledge’ established by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, which commits pledgers to distribute at least half their fortune during their lifetime.

Two years ago the list of the top 50 philanthropists in Australia began to be published. In 2018 the cut off for the list of private givers was $3.3 million, an increase of 10% from the previous year.

The biggest beneficiaries of philanthropy in the country are universities, the arts and medical research.

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