April 27 2020

CEO Update April 2020

By Craig Connelly

Unprecedented Times

Australians are resilient people. We successfully inhabit one of the most challenging landscapes on the planet. We have managed to create an inclusive and egalitarian society where the concept of a 'fair go' for all Australians is celebrated and, to a large extent, successfully achieved.

Right now, we are being challenged, and in a way that the nation has not experienced since the great depression of 1929 to 1932. In the context of this, for the Foundation and for the vast majority of Australians living today, these are truly unprecedented times.

I will never forget being in New York City in January 2020 watching images of our country burning. Now, only three months later, we are all living through an even greater public health and economic emergency, the global Coronavirus pandemic. With the unemployment rate expected to hit double figures in the space of one month resulting in millions of Australians now reliant on government-funded financial support; financial markets in freefall; imposed social distancing forcing the closure of sporting venues and cultural institutions, and even state borders; and fire-ravaged communities still reeling from the devastation of those bushfires, the challenges facing many Australians are immense and growing daily.

This is not what we would consider a normal situation.

Under these circumstances, the Board of The Ian Potter Foundation has responded to reflect the urgency and severity of the unfolding situation. So far, the Foundation has:

  1. Advised existing grantees that they may (a) extend any progress reporting requirements by at least 6 months and (b) seek the reallocation of existing project funding into operational funding on an ‘as required’ basis
  2. Confirmed to existing grantees the Foundations ability to meet all fiscal 2021 funding commitments
  3. Awarded approximately $1.065M in grants in support of COVID-19 focused grants, including seven Community Support grants totalling $535,000, co-funding ($500,000) with the Victorian and Australian governments and other philanthropic funders the development for the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and co-funding ($30,000) with the Minderoo Foundation a COVID-19 e-Learning platform for indigenous Australians
  4. Suspended its normal grantmaking rounds for the remainder of 2020, opting to deploy funds across all our Funding Pillars in a proactive manner in areas of greatest need, as assessed by our program managers in conjunction with the Board of The Ian Potter Foundation
  5. Suspended consideration of further Major Grants for 2020.

Our emphasis when considering how we approach our grantmaking during this time of enormous disruption and challenge for so many will be to support outstanding organisations with untied operational funding, to support innovative and collaborative translational research projects, leverage our funding with like-minded funders wherever possible and support vulnerable sectors of our community to the greatest extent possible. 

We will be particularly focused on assisting organisations to support as many people and communities as possible in a sustained way ‘on the other side’ of this pandemic  This will be critical, as I expect the economic consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for many years to come.

Australia’s Environment

The human toll of the unfolding health and economic disaster is obvious and devastating for many people. As a significant funder of the environmental sector, The Ian Potter Foundation remains focused on seeking strategically important and potentially impactful projects to support via our Sustainable funding pillar.

In these challenging times, when many of us are considering deeply what is truly important to us individually, as a community and as a society, it seems appropriate to remind ourselves of the fundamental role a healthy environment plays in a cohesive, sustainable and functioning society.

Now more than ever, we must not lose sight of this.

Gayini, formerly Nimmie-Caira

One example of an important, strategic and impactful project is the Great Cumbung property acquisition (which The Foundation supported with a $2.5m major grant in 2019) and the Gayini Nimmie-Caira property management initiative spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy Australia.  Combined, these transactions have allowed for Gayini to be handed back to its traditional owners: the Nari Nari. A video announcement (see above) of this significant event was made on 20 March by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales.

Recent Changes to Staff Roles

I am also excited to share with you the continued professional development of both experienced and new programmatic team members at The Ian Potter Foundation. One of our most experienced program managers, Louise Arkles, is assuming the role of the Senior Program Manager responsible for the Foundations Sustainable funding pillar. Current program officer in the Vibrant funding pillar, Subhadra Mistry, will now assume the role of Program Manager for this area. Additionally, Lauren Monaghan is now the Program Manager responsible for the Foundation’s research projects in both the Health and Sustainable funding pillars. Further details are provided later in this newsletter.

Please join me in wishing Louise, Subhadra and Lauren well in their respective new roles and expanded responsibilities.

These days, I am using the term ‘unprecedented’ an awful lot. However, it seems the appropriate term to describe the enormity of what many of us are experiencing. I was amazed to see recently that the Australian national flag was projected on to the Swiss Alps, in the Zermatt-Matterhorn region, as a sign of hope and solidarity.  The regional tourism body responsible for this generous show of support recognised the devastating impact of our bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic by reaching out to all Australians in a very visual way. 

Unprecedented? Possibly. Generous of spirit and of heart?  Definitely. It reminds us all that this is a time of great human tragedy and it will be the best human qualities that see us through to the other side and a vibrant, healthy, fair and sustainable Australia.