Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Speech to open the Internation Philanthropy Conference: A Wealth Of Experience and launch Giving Australia research report

Location: Hotel Sofitel, Melbourne, Vic


  • Lady Marigold Southey AM, President, Philanthropy Australia
  • Elizabeth Cham, CEO of Philanthropy Australia
  • Louise Fr├ęchette, Deputy Secretary, United Nations
  • Gina Anderson, who, in mid November, will replace Elizabeth Cham as CEO of Philanthropy Australia
  • Distinguished international visitors
  • Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Charles for your introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here this morning to officially open this prestigious conference.

Congratulations to Philanthropy Australia for organising such a successful and important event.

I am only too pleased that the Australian Government could contribute $100,000 towards the conference.

It is wonderful to see so many people here from diverse fields and backgrounds from all over the world.

As a group you are epitome of the theme of this conference because together you have ‘a wealth of experience’ in building philanthropy, corporate citizenship and community capacity.

As the Australian Government Minister responsible for promoting and encouraging philanthropy – especially through the formation of business and community partnerships – I believe gatherings like this play a crucial role in helping us to better understand the evolution of philanthropic practice.

The conference also will help to raise awareness about philanthropy; particularly its capacity to support innovation and take some of the risks which for governments and business are not always possible.

At the outset, I’m pleased to report that we have concrete proof that philanthropy, in all its guises, is flourishing in Australia today.

I’ll come to that proof in moment.

First, I would like to reflect on the fact that you cannot give what you do not have. Findings from a report that I will release today show that a key factor behind the increase in giving that we are seeing in Australia is sustained economic prosperity.

I am proud to be part of a government which, over the past nine and a half years, has built a stronger economy and managed sustained economic growth.

The benefits of philanthropy can also be described using economic analogies.

I see philanthropy as a kind of venture capital – not in the traditional business sense but it is an investment. Just as business profits from smart investments, so do communities. Philanthropic activity is an investment in a community’s health and wellbeing.

Philanthropy can complement the programs and services that governments have an obligation to provide but it does not replace them.

This Government will always be committed to maintaining a proper social safety net for people in need. Managing a strong economy ensures that we can provide for our needs today without going into debt and borrowing from the next generation.

Australians are a compassionate and generous lot. I see this reflected everywhere I go, in hundreds of communities across the country – whether it is:

  • a young school student volunteering at the local nursing home or giving their pocket money to charity;
  • a local business working in partnership with the community to find solutions to local problems;
  • a well-off family setting up a charitable foundation to support disadvantaged young people;
  • …through to national corporations contributing money and staff time to help the people affected by disasters such as the South Australian bushfires and the Asian tsunami.

The Australian Government places great value on supporting and encouraging

  • individuals – whoever and wherever they are;
  • businesses, large and small;
  • community organisations of all shapes and sizes;
  • and governments, at all levels

to work together and pool their ideas, skills and resources for the benefit of the community.

This ‘social coalition’ – the idea that problems cannot be solved by anyone alone – has gained momentum in recent years.

In 1999 the Prime Minister established his Community Business Partnership to develop and promote a culture of corporate and individual social responsibility in Australia and promote the benefits of partnerships. The Prime Minister chairs the Partnership and I am the Deputy Chair.

The partnership was established because of the Government’s belief that businesses and community organisations have a major role to play in developing a more productive, caring and creative society.

I think we all recognise that successful partnerships, contributing to the range of activities which are pursued and valued by us all, have the capacity to strengthen communities and enrich our lives.

Past and present members of the Community Business Partnership – prominent Australians from the business and community sectors – have been passionate in their belief that with targeted interventions from government, Australia’s capacity to give will continue to grow from strength to strength.

Action taken by the Australian Government to encourage philanthropy and community business partnerships came about in large part because of advice and input from Partnership members and others. These people recognize, as I’m sure many of you do, the great willingness of Australians from all walks of life, to give something back to their communities and to the nation.

Among the most significant developments have been changes to the taxation laws, making it easier and more attractive for people and organisations to donate to their favourite causes.

These changes include a suite of tax initiatives – such as new rules for setting up private charitable funds and tax deductions and exemptions for various kinds of donations of cash, property and gifts to charities – encourage and support giving by individuals, families and businesses.

Prescribed private funds have contributed significantly to community activities in the short time since their introduction in March 2001.

There are now around 250 funds with a corpus under investment of some $300 million and distributions to the charitable sector totaling more than $20 million.

In 2003, the Government funded a new Brokerage Service to encourage the formation of community business partnerships and to support them to achieve better results.

In the same year the Australian Government also provided seed funding towards the establishment of a Not for Profit Council of Australia.

In August I launched a Workplace Giving Australia kit. This kit is designed to help businesses set up systems for regular employee donations to charities through payroll deductions.

Each year, Community Business Partnerships Week showcases and promotes the value of partnerships.

Next week the winners of the seventh Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnership Awards will be announced. These awards celebrate and acknowledge the best of the best partnerships operating in Australia today.

Community partnerships have dramatically changed the nature of government intervention and the Government has moved to recognise and support the essential roles played by business and communities in building community capacity and social capital. We are:

  • helping committed people, passionate about improving their communities, to become involved;
  • exploring ways of working more effectively with the private sector; and
  • offering funding and support, where it can really make a difference.

I would like to give you a couple of examples from my own department – the Department of Family and Community Services – whose mission is to ‘improve the lives of Australians by helping to build the capacity and well-being of individuals, families and communities’

To support the amazing efforts of volunteers, the Volunteer Small Equipment Grants program provides grants of up to $3000 to help volunteer groups buy small items of equipment that make their activities more effective, safer and more enjoyable.

In the past few years, thousands of small equipment grants have gone to local groups to pay for equipment like shade cloths, tea urns, computers and tools.

On a larger scale, the Local Answers initiative, with nearly $140 million in funding over five years, offers grants to help turn community ideas into reality.

These projects may range from helping parents to build parenting skills and better family relationships, to offering friendship and support to newly-arrived migrants in the community, to improving links between existing community services.

Turning now to some ground-breaking research results I am releasing today.

Called ‘Giving Australia’, the research project was commissioned by my department on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.

With this research, for the first time in Australia, we have extensive qualitative and quantitative data on the two major forms of philanthropy – the giving of money and volunteering.

The methodology included surveys, interviews and group discussions with more than 10,000 people.

I would like to thank and acknowledge everyone who participated in this extensive data gathering exercise, particularly the panel of philanthropy experts who helped with analyses, and all the organisations and volunteers that worked together on this major project.

The final report of summary findings provides some incredibly useful data about the extent of corporate giving and what influences people’s behaviour and attitudes to philanthropy.

The report’s authors will talk more about the results on Wednesday, so I won’t go into great detail now.

I am pleased to report that there has been a significant increase in giving by both individuals and businesses. The rate of increase in volunteering has been much more pronounced in Australia than in comparable countries, like Canada and the United States.

The giving of money, goods and services to non-profit organisations by individuals and business is estimated to total $11 billion a year.

Of this, $5.7 billion was donations of money by individuals. This represents a massive 88 per cent increase since 1997 in individual giving.

Individuals contributed an additional $2 billion by participating in raffles, lotteries and other fund raising events.

On average people donated $424 each last year.

A big increase in giving was also reported for business with a doubling of effort since a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2001.

In the financial year 2003-04 businesses gave
$3.3 billion – 58 per cent in donations; 25 per cent as sponsorship; and 17 per cent as community business projects.

These figures do not count the unprecedented level of giving that went to the tsunami relief effort.

The research has also found that in 2004, 41 per cent of adult Australians volunteered a total of 836 million hours. This is a 16 per cent increase in the number of hours since the survey conducted in 2000 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

As I noted before, the report identifies sustained economic prosperity as one factor in the overall increase in giving in Australia.

To this end, the research makes some very interesting points about the level of giving being influenced by the capacity of individuals and businesses to give either financial or non-financial resources.

As well, the report examines the notion that giving can be viewed as occurring along a continuum from altruism – with no expectation of return – through to giving that entails reciprocity of either implicit, explicit, more or less tangible returns to the giver.

Overall, the research provides valuable insights into the many ways Australians share their wealth, their attitudes to giving and what motivates them.

It highlights both challenges and opportunities for all the sectors involved in promoting and encouraging our culture of giving – governments, academics, business and the not-for profits, alike.

A limited number of copies of the summary report ‘hot off the press’ are available here today, next to the registration desk. The full report will be put up on the Community Business Partnership web site next month.

Once again, congratulations to Philanthropy Australia for organising this important event. I want to pay special tribute to Elizabeth Cham, its National Director, for her untiring efforts over the years to raise the profile of philanthropy both in Australia and overseas.

I am delighted to officially launch the Giving Australia research summary report and to declare open the 2005 Philanthropy Australia Conference, A Wealth of Experience.

Thank you.