Business leader Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola will make history today with what is believed to be the largest single philanthropic donation in Australian history – $65 million to attract the best minds to Western Australia. The gift launches a $400 million fundraising campaign for The University of Western Australia.
Named at the request of the University, a new $50 million Forrest Foundation will fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships across all five WA universities. Another $15 million has been provided to build Forrest Hall, a creative living space for rising research stars rivalling the best residential colleges in the world. Forrest Hall will be affiliated with St George’s College at UWA.
Inspired by the global success of the Rhodes Scholarships and the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, the goal of the Foundation is to attract the brightest young minds from around the world as part of a plan to establish Perth and Western Australia as an international knowledge and innovation hub.
The Forrest gift is a key contribution to the University of Western Australia's $400 million fundraising campaign announced at a gala dinner tonight attended by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, WA Premier Colin Barnett, WA Governor Malcolm McCusker and hundreds of guests.
Mr Abbott applauded Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s foresight in enabling leading-edge research and securing a future for WA as a centre for global solutions, while strengthening the national knowledge-based economy.
The Forrests – well-known for their support of philanthropic causes – are the first Australians to have joined “The Giving Pledge” movement founded by US Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, and US business magnate Warren Buffet, committing billionaires to donating the majority of their wealth to charity.
UWA was selected by the Forrest family to administer their Foundation and as the home for Forrest Hall on the basis of the University’s research and teaching excellence. The $65 million gift caps a notable UWA Centenary Year in which the University was placed at number 91 in the respected Academic Ranking of World Universities and 26th in Life and Agricultural Sciences.
Mr Forrest, who graduated from UWA in 1983 with a BA (Econ) before becoming CEO and now Chairman of leading WA iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, said there was a growing movement in Australia for people to invest in their country and its young people.
“We’ve had great admiration for universities worldwide and, having visited so many of them, believe that The University of Western Australia is an excellent example of what our universities can grow to,” Mr Forrest said.
“The University of Western Australia, set within its beautiful grounds, enjoys the rare privilege of great weather, beautiful environment, social harmony and peaceful friendly people as its hosts.
“It all demonstrates the potential of our State to teach and attract the most productive local and international minds for the betterment of Australia.
"Let us all never forget that only education can be the final key to eliminate poverty in the world and raise the universal standard of living, ultimately to increase the nobility of the human cause.
Nicola Forrest said the couple wanted to be able to give where it would make a difference and results could be measured.
"There's got to be an impact from our philanthropy - and we feel there can be no greater impact than with education," she said.
UWA Chancellor and Chair of the New Century Campaign, Dr Michael Chaney, said the Forrest’s extraordinary gift echoed the foresight of Sir John Winthrop Hackett, who founded the University as its first Chancellor 100 years ago with a £425,000 ($37.7 million in current dollars ) donation “to advance the prosperity and welfare of the people” of WA.
“The Forrest’s gift is a great example of the sort of leadership needed in philanthropy if we’re going to have the universities we all aspire to,” Dr Chaney said.
“From UWA’s perspective, it’s going to help us create the future by enabling us to gear up our research effort as we move into our second century.
“People who have completed their PhDs or postgraduate research in Perth will stay here and help form centres of research excellence, or they’ll go back to their own countries and help us develop research partnerships between universities here and worldwide.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s donation, the largest to a university in Australia’s history, would be transformational.
“It will allow us to attract some of the very brightest people from around the world to create a powerhouse of ideas here in Perth, and to advance the development of our state, our society and our culture,” he said.
With a slogan of Create the future, UWA’s New Century Campaign targets prime areas of identified need. Among them:
- student scholarships, including financial support to ensure broad-based access to UWA;
- new research chairs, postdoctoral fellowships and a research endowment fund to support world-class exploration and innovation;
- a new Indigenous cultures museum, providing long-overdue access to the acclaimed Berndt Collection of Aboriginal art and artefacts, and a home for the prestigious Centre for Rock Art Research and Management; and
- cutting-edge infrastructure for interdisciplinary and applied solutions in a new UWA Engineering Zone.
Further information: New Century Campaign
David Harrison (+61 8) 6488 2804
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783