Mining baron Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and his wife, Nicola, will give at least half their wealth away to charity.
The Forrests have become the first Australians to join 105 billionaires who have signed up to The Giving Pledge, which requires signatories to commit half of their wealth to philanthropic causes and charitable organisations of their choice.
They join Virgin founder Richard Branson and David Sainsbury, a descendant of the founder of British supermarket Sainsbury’s in making the pledge.
In their pledge letter, the Forrests say they were fortunate to grow up in Australia, which they describe as “a wonderful country, whose people share a deep desire to help others less fortunate.”
The Forrests say they made the pledge with the “love and support of our children” and consulted with them on the decision to give away so much of their inheritance.
“With laughter we read on a physio’s wall a caption: ‘Those with the most toys when they die, still die.’ How true,” they write.
“It took us back to the time long ago (at least in our children’s eyes) that we shared the fundamental understanding as family, that to do your best in life, to achieve, to make a real and positive difference, and as importantly to enjoy our few days on this earth, then considerable inherited wealth could more than likely just get in the road.”
According to Australian Philanthropic Services chief executive Antonia Ruffell, the Forrest’s move is part of a swing towards more of Australia’s wealthy engaging in entrepreneurs.
Australian Philanthropic Services is a not-for-profit dedicated to helping wealthy Australians and their advisers understand “structured philanthropy”, where an individual creates a vehicle to manage their giving.
“We are seeing a growth in giving, particularly in the area of private ancillary funds which are a long-term vehicle for people to arrange their giving; they are the fastest growing philanthropic area in Australia,” she says.
“It’s really important that people talk about what they are doing publicly and this is at all levels, through from the super wealthy, like billionaires, through to those not as wealthy people, who have a huge influence as role models.”
The Forrests’ announcement follows Treasurer Wayne Swan’s attack on Australia’s mining billionaires last year when he specifically targeted Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer.
“For every Andrew Forrest who complains about high company taxes, then admits to not paying any, there are 100 or more that go about employing Australians and creating wealth in a constructive way,” Swan said.
The Forrests appear to take a swipe back at Swan in their pledge letter.
“Australians cherish the right to accumulate capital and distribute it any way they feel. It is essential to our freedom,” they write.
The pledge letter gives some hint of where the Forrests may direct their fortune, with references to Australia’s Aboriginal community, “modern slavery and forced labour” and education as key concerns.
The Forrests have not committed to a specific time to give away their wealth, with the pledge letter stating it will be within their lifetime or at the time of their death.