December 17 2020

CEO Update December 2020

By Craig Connelly

As we approach the last weeks of 2020, with state borders re-opening and as many Australian families, friends and loved ones are reunited, I have been reflecting on all that we have endured throughout 2020.  Frightening bushfires, environmental carnage, a global pandemic, closed international borders, government-mandated societal lockdowns, loss of freedoms previously taken for granted, a focus on individual actions designed to support the greater good, a public health emergency and unprecedented government fiscal stimulus supporting compromised industries.  What a year!

In the face of such challenges, communities have come together.  People have an elevated sense of the value of family, friends and loved ones.  Simple things matter.  A sense of hope pervades my thinking as I ponder what 2021 might have in store for us.

I am particularly hopeful about a long-term project supported by The Ian Potter Foundation, Accounting for Nature (AfN), a social enterprise established to deploy the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists Accounting for Nature measurement framework.  It is this measurement framework that the Foundation supported with in excess of $1 million of philanthropic support across three related but distinct projects over a ten-year period.  AfN was awarded the 2020 Environmental Finance Impact Award - Impact Initiative of the Year: Oceania.  This prestigious award recognises the unique and powerful framework that underpins the AfN vision and the substantial progress made in the past twelve months as the AfN works to operationalise its environmental measurement framework.  It is very encouraging to see consistent support of considered, quality research yield results that might have real impact and benefit for large tracts of Australia’s environmental assets and many Australian communities.

The response of Australian Indigenous communities to the COVID-19 pandemic provides me with another reason to be hopeful.   Across Australia, Indigenous-led organisations quickly informed and protected entire communities from the pandemic.  Professor Fiona Stanley, a leading epidemiologist and Foundation Board member, recently highlighted how extraordinarily successful this response was in an interview on ABC’s 7.30 Report.

The Foundation seeks to support Indigenous-led not-for-profit organisations working to strengthen communities by enhancing Aboriginal leadership and improving whole of life outcomes based on Aboriginal knowledge, culture and empowerment.  We will continue to look for opportunities to walk alongside and work with Indigenous communities to increase their capacity and ensure that they are best placed to manage their own futures.

At its December meeting, the Board of The Ian Potter Foundation undertook a comprehensive review of the focus areas for Major Grants.  The Board agreed to retain the focus areas for Indigenous Projects and Public Health programs until 2025.  However, the focus areas for Community Wellbeing and Sustainable Major Grants will be revised over the coming months.  We expect to announce these new Major Grant focus areas in May 2021, to be effective from 2021 to 2025.

As was recently announced, The Ian Potter Foundation is pleased to support the Victorian Government and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Australia’s largest cultural infrastructure project, the $1.4 billion phase 1 redevelopment of the Melbourne Arts Precinct, by supporting the NGV’s ambitious $200 million philanthropic fundraising effort with the Foundation’s largest-ever grant of $20 million supporting the development of NGV Contemporary.

The Governors of The Ian Potter Foundation regard the development of NGV Contemporary to be of national and international significance.  The Foundation is making this large financial commitment at this time in the hope that it will galvanize further funding commitments from a variety of community members and philanthropic foundations who share our desire to further expand Melbourne and Australia’s culturally vibrant and diverse arts sector.

I wish to congratulate Lady Potter on being recognised with the Creative Partnerships Australia, Arts Visionary Award.  This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition of Lady Potter’s tireless and passionate support for the arts over many decades.  As Lady Potter so succinctly puts it, ‘if you want something to last, you have to look after it’ ­– a sentiment many now share having observed the devastating impact COVID-19 has wreaked on the arts sector in 2020.

As we all, hopefully, wind down to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with family and friends, I would encourage all of us to think of others less fortunate than ourselves.  The year 2020 was tough, but from adversity springs hope, opportunity and a strong sense of purpose.  Let’s embrace those feelings with a sense of community, of outreach and support for those around us.  If I took one thing from my own experience this year, it is that human connection matters.  Those we love and respect matter to us and our sense of community is a core tenet of who we are as a nation – an inclusive, loving, caring and supportive Australia.