The University of Wollongong has received its largest ever donation from an individual. Greg Johnson reports.

Professor Paul Chandler and Monique Harper-Richardson, UOW’s Director Development and Engagement, with philanthropist Christopher Abbott.
Caption: Professor Paul Chandler and Monique Harper-Richardson, UOW’s Director Development and Engagement, with philanthropist Christopher Abbott.

A $7 million donation has been made to the University of Wollongong by The Abbott Foundation. The gift is the largest philanthropic donation ever received by the university in New South Wales’ Illawarra region.

The Abbott Foundation was created in 2009 by venture capitalist Christopher Abbott AM with the aim of providing learning opportunities for young children. Abbott’s donation will go towards a $44 million early start facility, which will feature a 2,000 square metre children’s discovery centre that includes activity and exhibition space plus discovery galleries.

“We want the discovery centre to enable children to look after themselves, to thrive, grow, create and interact … to become part of society,” Abbott said. “We want children to feel at home, to feel safe and to have fun because we believe the propensity to learn is greatest when there is an absence of threat.

“We want them to think for themselves and learn to work out problems for themselves, because that is how they can develop self-confidence,” he added.

Abbott was also instrumental in supporting the university’s application for government funding towards the project. As a result, the federal government announced last month that $31 million in funding would be provided from its Education Investment Fund.

University vice-chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE praised Abbott’s philanthropy and involvement in securing the government funding.

“Mr Abbott’s contribution is one of the largest donations ever made to a non-group of eight university in Australia,” he said. “It is certainly the largest donation to the University of Wollongong.”

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