Queensland celebrates growing momentum in philanthropy


An atmosphere of generosity and excitement prevailed at this year’s Queensland Community Foundation (QCF) Philanthropy Week. SVA’s Queensland Venture Philanthropy Manager Dina Jak reflects on some of the highlights, including former SVA CEO Michael Traill’s inspiring speech at the QCF Philanthropist of the Year Awards.

Philanthropy in Queensland has been gathering pace in recent years and during QCF Philanthropy Week 2017 (9-16 June) the enthusiasm and support for the sector was palpable.

Hosted by the Queensland Community Foundation, the week began with a reception at Government House, Brisbane – which also marked QCF’s 20th anniversary – and culminated in the 2017 Philanthropist of the Year Awards Luncheon sponsored by QIC and The Public Trustee of Queensland, among others.

SVA’s Queensland team was privileged to be a part of it all. The diverse program of well-attended events conveyed the growing spirit of collaboration in Queensland, with a mix of partners and engaged community members increasingly working together to tackle the state’s most pressing social issues.

Cause for celebration

Notable highlights for SVA included The Funding Network’s Brisbane event, an energetic evening of fundraising which saw more than $38,000 pledged to SVA venture partner Mimi’s House, an initiative of Hope Centre Services.

SVA also had the honour of hosting a table at the awards ceremony on Friday 16 June, the flagship event of QCF’s Philanthropy Week. We were joined by key supporters and partners including representatives from Mimi’s House and Wings to Fly – the latest addition to our Queensland Venture Philanthropy portfolio which aims to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of 0-5 year olds, including vulnerable and traumatised children.

Around 350 guests gathered at the Brisbane Hilton to recognise community members and organisations making outstanding philanthropic contributions. Winners included Queensland Rail as the QCF Corporate Philanthropist of the Year; Toowoomba’s Hallmark Property picked up QCF SME Philanthropist of the Year; while the QCF Emerging Philanthropist of the Year award went to Bernard Curran.

Guest attending the 2017 Philanthropist of the Year Awards Luncheon. Photo credit: Queensland Community Foundation

Changing the game

Guest speaker – and former SVA CEO – Michael Traill gave an inspiring speech drawing on his story of ‘jumping ship’, which saw him abandon the world of private equity in 2002 to help form SVA.

He talked of ‘the power of uncommon alliances’ and used his experience of bringing a venture capitalist model to the philanthropic sector, and his subsequent success with Goodstart Early Learning, as examples of this.

‘Thinking differently’ he believes is key, and on this basis when people ask him whether Goodstart – which is about to hit $1 billion in revenue – is a one-off he says that’s not necessarily the case. He made particular mention of Vanguard Laundry Services – another of SVA’s Queensland venture partners – as a small social enterprise with big potential.

On the theme of ‘game changers’ he also called out the Bryan Foundation for its significant contribution to date, particularly its 2016 cornerstone donation to SVA’s Queensland Venture Philanthropy Fund.

A legacy for the future

While complementing the overall vibe of positivity and celebration at the close of Philanthropy Week, Traill’s speech also reminded guests that there is still plenty of work to be done in Queensland to shift the dial on social disadvantage.

Australia’s postcode divide was of particular concern and, referring to the work of SVA’s Bright Spots Schools Connection in supporting students in disadvantaged communities, he was keen to emphasise the importance of looking to the future and not just the here and now.

To inspire Queensland’s philanthropic community to continue the great work it’s doing, Traill chose to wrap up his speech with a quote from the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson:

‘You are not here merely to make a living… You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.’

Words for all of us to ponder.

SVA would like to thank QCF for a wonderful event and congratulates all the winners of the 2017 Philanthropist of the Year Awards and others in the room for their contribution to Queensland’s burgeoning philanthropic scene.