MINING tycoon Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and his wife Nicola have made one of the biggest-ever single philanthropic donations in Australian history, giving $65 million in cash to WA’s five tertiary institutions.
According to The Australian Financial Review, $50 million of the gift would go towards setting up the Forrest Foundation: an organisation to fund 25 international PhD students and six post-graduate scholarships per year, in a “modern Australian version of the Rhodes scholarships to Oxford”.
Scholarship recipients will be called Forrest scholars and fellows.
The gift was a particular boon for the University of WA, with the remaining $15 million to be used to construct a new accommodation block adjacent to the university, to be named Forrest Hall. Mr Forrest, chairman and former chief executive of iron ore major Fortescue Metals Group, said donation aimed to attract some of the “finest young minds in the world” to Australian soil.
“We want to bring into Australia the world’s leading academic talent in a number of post-graduate fields, in a way that will benefit the students and the institutions alike,” Mr Forrest told The Australian Financial Review.
“We hope this is simply the beginning of Australia, and especially Western Australia, being able to leverage its many advantages to a much greater extent in terms of academic research.”
A UWA Bachelor of Economics and Politics graduate, Mr Forrest stated there would be no particular criteria or preference given regarding the area of research for the scholarship; it would be awarded to honour and attract “the greatest talent”.
“In the longer term, there is compounding benefit to the economy from attracting the greatest talent,” Mr Forrest said.
“But we would also be looking at relevance to the sustainability and development of humanity. We would like it to become much bigger and we are encouraging the university to spend the money aggressively.”
UWA chancellor Michael Chaney said the gift was “extraordinary” and an important contribution to heighten Australia’s academic prominence into the future.
“From UWA’s perspective, it’s going to help us create the future by enabling us to gear up our research effort as we move into our second century,” Mr Chaney said.
“People who have completed their PhDs or postgraduate research in Perth will stay here and help form centres of research excellence, or they’ll go back to their own countries and help us develop research partnerships between universities here and worldwide.”
Mr Forrest’s donation was formally announced at a gala dinner in mid October, attended by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, WA Premier Colin Barnett and the Forrest family.
Philanthropy Australia chief executive Louise Walsh told ABC News the donation was “certainly the biggest single cash gift in Australian history by an Australian.”
Among the largest cash gift donations in Australian history was a $102.5 million gift to three Queensland tertiary institutions, bestowed by Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney in 2009.