Andrew, Nicola Forrest commit to giving over $2.5 billion

Andrew and Nicola Forrest have become the first Australians to join ‘The Giving Pledge’ philanthropic movement, founded by Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffett. Greg Johnson reports on the historic moment for Australian philanthropy.

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola have become the first Australians to join The Giving Pledge, which has announced 12 new international additions. The couple’s commitment will see them donate in excess of $2.5 billion to charity, based on their current estimated wealth.

Founded in 2010 by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, The Giving Pledge campaign focuses on encouraging the world’s billionaires to contribute at least 50% of their wealth to charity. In a letter announcing their addition to The Giving Pledge, the couple wrote:

“We join your hope, with our friends in Australia, that our example will give others in fortunate circumstances pause. To those others, while giving responsibly is challenging to do well, you will find it even more satisfying than the exhilaration you experienced when creating your enterprises.

“It was your logic, intuition, focus, foresight, good fortune, relentless determination and work capacity that produced the wealth you now ponder the future of. Yet it is also these same powerful talents that cause you to ask yourself, could I become a major philanthropist and responsibly use my wealth to improve communities and the lives of those less fortunate, potentially touching millions of people?”

Click here to read Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s full letter of commitment to The Giving Pledge.

The Perth-based couple are already well known for their philanthropy, with Nicola managing the Australian Children’s Trust (ACT) which they established in 2001 to focus on the needs of underprivileged youth. More than $90 million of the couple’s wealth has already been put into ACT for philanthropic use, including an $80 million allocation of shares made in 2007.

The couple’s more recent donations include $3 million for Art Gallery of Western Australia's Future Fund and $3.7 million which was shared between WA Symphony Orchestra, WA Opera and Black Swan State Theatre Centre. They also made a $1.3 million donation to Murdoch University's Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases last year.

Forrest is Australia’s third richest person, according to Forbes.com’s Australia’s 40 Richest list from 2012, with an estimated net worth of $5.3 billion. Forrest had taken over from James Packer as Australia’s richest person in 2010, however that title has since been taken by fellow mining giant Gina Rinehart.

The Forrests made their wealth through investment and ownership of mining operations - both nickel and iron ore - throughout Australia. The couple’s primary interest is a 32% stake in Fortescue Metals Group, where Forrest is a major shareholder and chairman. He stepped down from his position as the group’s chief executive officer last year to focus on his philanthropic activities, amongst other motivations.

The Forrests are one of 12 new families to join The Giving Pledge, all of which are from outside of the United States of America, taking the total to 105. They are joined by Richard and Joan Branson, as well as billionaires from India, Malaysia and Russia as new pledgers.

To learn more about The Giving Pledge, visit: www.givingpledge.org

Greg Johnson is the editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.