This year, the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife won Australian Charity of the Year 2021 with a series of fundraising initiatives that supported volunteers, educated the community and provided critical bushfire relief.

‘Wildlife Hero’, Julie Harris. Image credit: Doug Gimesy.

Peggy McDonald has been a wildlife carer for over 40 years, dedicating much of her life to voluntarily establish and operate the Higher Ground Raptor Centre, an Australian bird of prey rehabilitation, release and education facility in rural NSW. She is one of 15,000+ wildlife carers in Australia, the vast majority of whom dedicate their time voluntarily. She also features in an episode of the Wildlife Heroes podcast, a communication channel of the eponymous campaign established by the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (FNPW) in 2019.

Wildlife Heroes was founded when the FNPW identified a need to support wildlife rescue and rehabilitation volunteers across Australia. The three-year project was developed in conjunction with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and supported by the NSW Government. The charity partnered with nonprofit Two Green Threads on the campaign, to help care for the wellbeing of wildlife carers, who are often delivering physically and emotionally demanding care in challenging conditions. The project also provides funding and grants for carers, including funds for vaccination programs (wildlife carers are particularly susceptible to diseases such as Q Fever, a bacterial infection transmitted by animals) and support for carers’ response to bushfires. During the 2019/20 bushfires, Wildlife Heroes was one of the first programs to supply bushfire emergency funds to wildlife groups in need, with many still caring for sick and injured animals to this day.

The project was one of a suite of initiatives that secured FNPW top spot of Australian Charity of the Year 2021 as part of The Australian Charity Awards.

So, who are FNPW and what made them stand out?

More about FNPW

FNPW is the charity partner of Australia’s National Parks, operating for over 50 years and funding conservation projects across the nation to safeguard natural Australia for future generations; to date it has invested over $60 million in its work towards this goal. Their unwavering commitment to preserving our country’s wilderness and wildlife, in particular its bushfire recovery efforts following the Black Summer of 2019/20, was instrumental to The Australian Charity Awards’ decision to award them Australian Charity of the Year.

Following the devastating impact of the 2019/2020 bushfire season, FNPW established its ‘Bushfire Recovery Nursery Project’ with the mission to plant one million trees in bushfire affected regions across Australia by 2025. The team, with the support of partners L’OCCITANE Australia and One Tree Planted, provides grants to expand existing community nurseries and support organisations to propagate native plants for erosion prevention and habitat restoration. To date, nine Bushfire Recovery Nurseries locations have been launched, with more to come.

A volunteer working in a bushfire recovery nursery. Image credit: FNPW.

A third winning initiative is Backyard Buddies, a free, national educational initiative that provides simple tips to help transform backyards into safe habitat havens, ultimately contributing to Australia’s green corridors to help support the ‘Big Backyard’ – Australia’s national parks. It is supported by schools, councils, catchment management authorities and community members across the country.

How do they fundraise?

2019/20 was a record fundraising year for FNPW, raising $5.3 million, a 146% increase on 2019. This was, in large part, due to an outpouring of support following the catastrophic bushfires and included funds from near and afar, such as the $150,000 raised by 14,000 volunteer firefighters in Southern Poland to aid the regeneration of Kosciuszko National Park. Funds were driven through the organisation’s Healing Our Land campaign with messaging to audiences demonstrating the need for bushfire emergency relief and recovery priorities.

Government grants certainly played a large part, contributing $1,179,317, mainly to the FNPW’s bushfire appeal, but general donations also increased by $762,102 on the previous year and corporate, foundations and major donor contributions grew by $937,095 on 2018/19.

Corporate giving was supported by a timely shift in awareness-raising and brand development strategy. The strategy included a number of opportunities for corporates to support the FNPW, as well as a corporate volunteering program.

The figures above evidence the charity’s strong bequest presence, with gift in wills income of $244,154 coming from just two bequestors in 2019/20.

FNPW encourages and recognises major gifts via a dedicated Giving Circle and it offers a monthly giving program called Habitat Heroes, and a number of options and choices for donating and fundraising.

Its 2021 giving day was held on World Rainforest Day (22 June), raising $222,918 to support ‘the future of our parks, people and wildlife’, including the Gondwana rainforest region of NSW and QLD, which was badly damaged in the 2019/20 bushfires.

The charity has over 23,000 followers across social media channels, using Facebook most frequently to share a mix of fundraising calls to action, corporate partnership acknowledgment, news from conservation partners around the country and educational tips for the community about understanding and nurturing their local wildlife and environment.

And of course, there’s the aforementioned podcast, with series one focused on ‘caring for [wildlife] carers’ and series two providing education on wildlife specialists and native wildlife.

Winning the award

In response to winning the Australian Charity of the Year 2021 award, FNPW’s Chief Executive Officer, Ian Darbyshire said:

“We are so honoured to be acknowledged as Australia’s Charity of the Year. Our passionate team works tirelessly to ensure we continue on our mission of growing national parks and saving endangered species. 

“We are deeply thankful to our partners, supporters and the many volunteers who have supported us in launching the Bushfire Recovery Nursery project by planting trees towards bushfire regeneration and overall, making a positive contribution to the wider community.

“The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife has achieved many milestones in our 50 plus years in Australia. It has and always will be our mission to support the conservation of Australia’s wilderness and wildlife for future generations.”

FNPW CEO, Ian Darbyshire.
















For further information on FNPW, visit

Watch this video to learn more about the Wildlife Heroes project.

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