Andrew and Nicola Forrest have once again broken philanthropic ground with a pledge to contribute $65 million to Western Australian universities, explains Sam Gibbs. 

Andrew and Nicola Forrest have once again broken philanthropic ground with a pledge to contribute $65 million to Western Australian universities. The Fortescue Metals billionaire and his wife will formally announce the record-breaking gift tonight at a Perth gala dinner with Prime Minister Tony Abbott. 

The donation will mark the largest single gift ever made by an Australian, eclipsing recent donations of $50.1 million by Clive Berghofer to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Graham and Louise Tuckwell’s $50 million donation to Australian National University. 

$50 million of the Forrests’ remarkable gift is reportedly dedicated to funding scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships for all five Western Australian universities. The remaining $15 million will be directed to the building of a new residential college at the University of Western Australia, Andrew Forrest’s alma mater. 

In February of 2013 the Forrests became the first Australians to join ‘The Giving Pledge’ – a movement founded by Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the world’s billionaires to contribute at least half of their wealth to charity. 

Graham Tuckwell’s wealth was valued at $3.66 billion by BRW in May, meaning that his Giving Pledge represents an approximate $1.83 billion in philanthropic intent.

“We share a fundamental belief in the value of education,” the Forrests wrote in their pledge to the Gates project. “We so often say to children, ‘Dream your dreams way beyond your current circumstances. Now choose education to give you the freedom to achieve them.’”

“Wealthy people in Australia tend to give and give very quietly,” Andrew Forrest told the ABC this morning amidst a sea of media coverage of the $65 million gift. 

“That is wonderful that they do that, but if they actually give and let people know that, it acts as an inspiration.”

When asked what he expected in return for his gift, Forrest said he expected it to be one of the best investments he will ever make. 

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 33 per cent stake in Fortescue Metals Group, where Andrew Forrest is a major shareholder and chairman. 

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