AMP Foundation 30th Anniversary
Art Gallery of NSW
Thursday, 13 April 2023
Thank you for that generous introduction. I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, pay my respects to their elders and commit myself as a member of the Albanese government to the implementation in full of the Uluru Statement From the Heart.
I also acknowledge Alexis George, the CEO of AMP, Nicola Stokes, the general manager of the AMP Foundation, Professor Peter Shergold the chair of the AMP Foundation, and all of you for being here tonight.
It’s a pleasure to be here in the Art Gallery of NSW’s new Sydney Modern Project building. Down below our feet is an artwork by Adrian Villa Rojas called "End of Imagination". It's a remarkable room, largely dark, lit only by search lights. And the central idea of the artwork is a series of monuments to the future, which have been aged on future worlds for thousands of years. If you haven't been down, I encourage you to check it out. It is an extraordinary art work. My three boys, aged 10, 13 and 16 all enjoyed different facets of it when we visited last. But it does remind us that all of us will be gone at some points. And what lives on beyond us is the big question. "End of Imagination" reminds us of the importance of legacy. And the work the AMP Foundation does is about legacy, is about the sort of nation we can hand on to the next generations.
I've had the privilege of having the charities portfolio for the Labor Party since 2013, and in that period to work deeply with a whole range of charities and donors in the sector. It's also given me a chance to look at some of the trends in community life in Australia and some of those are pretty troubling. Over the last generation we've become less likely to join community groups, we're less likely to volunteer. The typical Australian has fewer close friends and knows fewer neighbours. The share of Australians giving to charity has declined. The share of people playing organised sport has dropped, we’re less likely to join a union, less likely to be part of a religious group, less likely to be connected with others. In short, we've moved from being less of a country of ‘we’ and more of a nation of ‘me’.
So my ambition as the Assistant Minister for Charities isn't just to boost charitable giving, although we're aiming to do that by setting a target to double philanthropy by 2030. It also to use that money to better reconnect Australians - to build the strength of civic community to ensure that we have a nation that tackles our shared challenges. This isn't about government doing less. This is about government stepping up in partnership with the community sector to tackle those challenges, homelessness, indigenous disadvantage, inequality, or social isolation.
The AMP Foundation was created three decades ago, and has invested more than $110 million in the Australian community. When we talk about our government’s goal of doubling philanthropy by 2030, it's willing collaborators like the AMP Foundation and AMP staff that we have in mind. We're working to boost workplace giving, and your engagement with AMP employees is so inspirational in that regard. We're also looking at ways of linking together charitable giving with volunteering. And the nearly 14,000 hours of volunteering provided by AMP employees through the foundation's volunteering program shows what a powerful tool it can be to join up the giving with your money and giving of your time. You support programs like the Cancer Council’s pro bono program that provides free financial advice to cancer patients, carers and their families.
Foundations can be the venture capital arm of government, trying things that are a little bit riskier, testing new ideas. And the Tomorrow Fund founded in 2014, does just that. backing people seeking to make change in their community.
People like Amar Singh, who founded Turbans for Australia. It's been visible during recent times of crisis, the bushfires, the COVID pandemic, handing out emergency supplies with Sikhs wearing turbans that remind us of the strength of our diverse society and provide assistance to those most in need. People like Terri Waller who founded SevGen, which was born out of indigenous ways of thinking but, as she puts it, our actions of today will affect seven generations into the future. Terri worked to establish the largest indigenous owned bushtucker orchard in Queensland.
The AMP foundation is backing Social Ventures Australia and that organisation's work to ensure best practice in philanthropic giving and social investment. The AMP Foundation has been an early proponent of social impact investing, backing scalable businesses that blend financial returns with real measurable social and environmental returns. Organisations such as Catalyst Education, an educator specialising in early childhood education and care, aged care and disability care, Australian water assets such as the Murray Darling Basin balanced water fund.
This is the right kind of workplace giving, allowing organisations to get access to the professional acumen of your specialist staff. I've held community meetings around Australia since taking on this portfolio last May, meeting with more than 1000 Australian charities and not-for-profits in every capital city in Australia. And one of the things they tell me is how stretched they are for talented volunteers.
Most charities don't need a full time financial advisor, or even a part time one. But if they know they can get access to half a day of expert advice when they need it, then they can concentrate their own work and energies on their central mission. That's the kind of partnership we want to see between professional workplaces and nonprofits expanding this kind of good corporate citizenship.
Six years ago, the Uluru Statement from the Heart asked Australians to walk together on the journey towards reconciliation. Just 439 words in total, the Uluru statement is as generous as it is powerful. A First Nations voice to parliament would right a historic wrong to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. It will allow the voices of Indigenous Australians to be heard on matters that affect them. We have nothing to fear and everything to gain from listening to First Nations Australians, hearing their stories, understanding their dreams and recognising their perspectives will make us a richer nation.
So it gives me great pleasure to present the first AMP Foundation 30th anniversary grant of $1 million to First Australians Capital. First Australians Capital has supported more than 200 indigenous businesses across the arts, construction, recreation, retail and professional services. It shows that if the spark of an idea is supportive, it ignites to deliver immeasurable social impact. So please join me in welcoming Leah Armstrong, Co-Chair and Managing Director to the stage.