Philanthropists with vision

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Last Thursday the Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, gave the oration at the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation's annual Inspiring Philanthropy Celebration.

It was a remarkable address and resonated with one of our findings in our recent Greater Melbourne Vital Signs report and my own reflections on the major transitions.

At the end of my CEO report on Transitions, I asked myself a question: As our community goes through these transitions, is philanthropy content to simply watch the change or should we be helping shape the future, especially to ensure that people who already face disadvantage are not doubly disadvantaged by these changes or that new groups do not inadvertently miss out?

The answer is yes. As the community foundation for Melbourne, we have a role to play in supporting a just and sustainable path through these transitions.
 
The Governor’s address highlighted three examples of forward looking philanthropy and the long term impact these had made. She spoke of Sir Alfred Felton who made a bequest that included support of the National Gallery of Victoria because he wanted to encourage the development of public taste (the appreciation of the arts).  Sir Alfred clearly succeeded in his quest to bring a love of the arts and culture to Melburnians – as the Vital Signs report indicator showed: 95% of people are participate in or attend arts and cultural activities (Creative Victoria, Arts in Daily Life, Dec 2014).
 
The Governor also spoke about Dame Elisabeth and her interest for over 80 years in children’s health, demonstrated through her support and Board Presidency of the Royal Children’s Hospital and also the founding of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Both continue to be leading international institutions in children’s health and research.
 
The Churchill Fellowships were also given as an example of collective philanthropy. Many people donated to build the Churchill fund that supports people of all ages and backgrounds to undertake study tours that benefit the Australian community.
 
I spoke at the Inspiring Philanthropy celebration about some of the major transitions we are responding to as a foundation through philanthropy. It was heartening to think about these forward looking people who made gifts that still have an impact today.
 
The transitions we face including the changing world of work; the transition to the digital world; the increasing presence of social enterprises (using business principles for social purpose), including the government social procurement opportunities; the possibilities provided by impact investment alongside granting, and the transition to a low carbon future, provide us with the impetus for new ideas and possibilities. As a foundation we are funding right across these transitions. Philanthropy needs to share a vision of a just and sustainable future. We need to be inspired by earlier philanthropists to support new opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds within our fast changing world.

Catherine Brown
Chief Executive Officer

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