Andrew Forrest, founder and chairman of iron ore giant Fortescue Metals Group, has made the biggest single philanthropic donation in Australian history to support a variety of social and scientific causes.Forrest and his wife Nicola said on Monday they would give away Aus$400 million ($298 million, 266 million euros) in a donation described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a “game-changer in the Australian philanthropic community.”
The Australian mining magnate said the couple was making the donation as an “act of love,” adding: “We’re doing it because it’s very timely in all of the fields which we’re donating to.”
At a ceremony in Canberra, the 55-year-old announced that some Aus$75 million were earmarked towards fighting cancer, with the same amount being donated to higher education and research, towards “giving every child their best chance,” and towards removing “modern slavery from human history.”
Efforts to create equality of opportunity and to build stronger communities were to receive Aus$50 million each. Forrest said he had been “very fortunate” to be able to accumulate his wealth, and then “as soon as we can” to begin giving it away.
The businessman built his fortune in mining after founding Anaconda Nickel, now known as Minara Resources, in 1994, before founding Fortescue Metals Group in 2003, the world’s fourth largest and Australia’s third largest iron ore miner behind BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. He is now chairman of Fortescue, having stepped down as chief executive in 2011 to focus on philanthropic work.
It’s not the first time the Forrest family has made a major philanthropic donation. He and his wife Nicola established the Minderoo Foundation in 2001, with the ethos that “by giving a hand up, not a hand out, we can empower communities.”
Minderoo has supported more than 250 initiatives both within Australia and internationally, including fighting modern slavery. The foundation has also promoted the use of the cashless welfare card which Forrest initiated. His daughter Grace founded the Walk Free Foundation in 2012, which aims to end slavery.
Philanthropy in Australia has gathered steam in recent years, with gambling mogul James Packer in 2014 setting up a foundation to give away Aus$200 million. But it still pales in comparison to the much stronger philanthropic culture in the United States, spearheaded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge movement.
uhe/mds (Reuters, AFP)