Monday, 1 June 2020

First of all, I would like to send my best wishes to all readers of Connect as we work together to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that everyone is safe and well. I especially acknowledge the health and emergency workers who have stepped-up to make sure our health system provides the best medical support.

Our charities are demonstrating incredible resilience and agility as they adapt their services to meet unprecedented demand using digital tools and new collaborations.

Our outstanding health system has meant that philanthropy in Australia can support additional research about treatment of vulnerable communities. Two projects we have funded - Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 by Alfred Health and the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce by Monash University - are profiled in this edition of Connect. As I have followed the work that is being funded by foundations in the United States, I am struck by how much of the granting is directed at health responses that government has been able to provide here. We are very fortunate to live in this country.

Our wonderful health system also means that foundations in Australia can also focus on supporting the charitable sector scale-up services to meet unprecedented demand so that people have access to rapid advice to help prevent them entering homelessness and gain personal support.

Examples of this support include our grants to Justice Connect and Ask Izzy to expand their online services and for Gather My Crew to build their new street and health crew platforms. It might be interesting for readers to know that Ask Izzy was first funded by a Google Impact Challenge to build Ask Izzy in 2014. However, there is no ongoing funding for upgrading the platform. We have partnered with Infoxchange to do this work so that it can meet the COVID-19 challenge.

The Foundation has long supported the charitable sector to remain viable and robust. We are taking a flexible approach to requests from grant partners for extensions of time or redesigning projects. We are committed to listening to our grant partners and helping them get through this crisis. It is important that we come through this crisis with a strong charitable sector. There will be economic challenges ahead. My thoughts are very much with young people and women because they are large parts of the casual workforce and the gig economy. We are looking for further ways to support these groups.

Despite the very major impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and the bushfires have had on the community, I believe that there are opportunities to ‘build back better’. This should always be a goal in the recovery phase of a disaster.

Partnerships between government, business, philanthropy and the not-for-profit sector could lead to an increased supply of social and affordable housing and increase employment opportunities through the renewable energy transition. These would be very positive outcomes and we are supporting various partners who are trying to make these opportunities become a reality.

Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is based on the notion of a community helping itself through building up financial and social capital over time. Our donors are people who think of others and want to give back to their community. This is a time when foundations must step up to help people with health, social and economic challenges. As we slowly recover from these disasters, it is also a time when we can support a vision for a more equal and sustainable future for the whole community. Together, we will come through this difficult time.

Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer