Community-Business Partnerships

My Chronicle column this month continues the community-building theme, with a discussion of community-business partnerships.
Community Help from Business and Government, The Chronicle, 3 September 2013

A few weeks ago, I attended the opening of MLC Advice Canberra, a new financial planning business run by 30 year-old Michael Miller. In my role as your federal MP, I go to a lot of office openings, but this one was different. Alongside the finance boffins were a veritable who’s who of Canberra community organisations.

Care Inc director Carmel Franklin came along because Michael serves on her board. Others came to recognise his donations. With each new client, Michael makes a donation to Diabetes ACT, Menslink, or the UC Foundation for regional and Indigenous youth. When I asked him about this, Michael smiled and replied ‘Well, I’m young and I don’t have kids. The business is doing well, so why shouldn’t I help others too?’

Government has an important role in reducing disadvantage, whether it’s through DisabilityCare, Indigenous employment programs, or uncapping university places so more children can be the first in their family to get a tertiary education. But we also need to unleash the potential of Australia’s charities. Partly, that’s about the new Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, which will reduce the burden of regulation and reporting. But it’s also about encouraging collaborations between innovative businesses and great charities.

A terrific community-business partnership is the Students Participating in Community Enterprise program, managed by Rikki Blacka of Volunteering ACT. The idea behind SPICE is to find students who are at risk of dropping out of school, and give them a work experience placement that will demonstrate the relevance of education. Local firms like Keirs Mechanical Repairs in Dickson and Beyond the Cutting Line in Melba have been great supporters of the program, mentoring young men and women who often end up going on to complete apprenticeships. Indeed, I’ve recently had a SPICE student in my own office.

The best community work by firms builds on their expertise and passion. Under managing director Glenn Keys, Aspen Medical (which last year was named ACT Exporter of the Year) has established the Aspen Foundation. The Foundation is targeting trachoma, an eye disease that still causes blindness in remote Indigenous communities.

In the same spirit, Beyond Bank Australia (formerly known as Community CPS Australia) has just announced a long-term partnership agreement with Volunteering Australia. This will see the bank supporting national initiatives to promote volunteering. CEO Robert Keogh also told me that Beyond Bank offers all its staff the chance to volunteer in the community for two days each year – an initiative that’s becoming increasingly popular across corporate Australia.

For me, encouraging volunteering, fostering philanthropy, motivating young leaders, and bringing together social entrepreneurs is a core part of being a good local member. If I’m fortunate to have the privilege of being re-elected as your local MP, it’s something I’m keen to continue over the next parliamentary term. So keep sharing with me your ideas about how we can work together to make this great city fairer and more prosperous in the years to come.

Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser, and his website is

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