Three reasons why we’re working to shift the philanthropic sector in Australia


Sophie Monaghan-Coombs


In 2018, we took our conversations on philanthropy down under, and this year we’re heading back. 

During our retreat in Adelaide, we explored how funders can take more risks and be more systemic to increase their impact. This year, we’re building on this work and some of the common underlying principles for innovative, authentic philanthropy that emerged in 2018. These included: expanding participation, reconfiguring power and localising decision making. We believe this work is important, particularly in the Australian context. Here’s three reasons why:

Bringing new conversations to isolated regions
The Australian philanthropic sector can be isolated from conversations within the global sector. We firmly believe in the value of global learning to influence localised decision making and contexts. I particularly noticed the power of this during our retreat last year on Social cohesion and the role for philanthropy. With representatives from the philanthropic sector working in settler lands – Canada, New Zealand and the US at this retreat – participants were able to share their challenges reconciling with colonial legacies within their organisations and within the communities with which they work. We want to ensure that Australian funders don’t always have to travel to take part in these kinds of discussions, so we’re bringing the conversation to them.

Showcasing some of the work happening in Australia
But it’s not only Australians learning from the global philanthropic landscape. We’re working with some fantastic partners and we want to ensure that foundations from around the world have the opportunity to learn from the work they’re doing. This group of partners includes the Fay Fuller Foundation, Cages Foundation, the Dusseldorp Forum, the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. We feel lucky to be working with a group of diverse organisations from across the country who are all committed to shifting the sector. We want to help share work like the Fay Fuller Foundation’s Our Town programme, which activates and strengthens what already exists in communities through a data-driven approach to move towards mentally healthy futures.

This year, we’ll be hosting our retreat with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, who are supporting Australians to break cycles of disadvantage. Outlining why they are hosting the 2020 retreat, the Foundation’s Chief Capability Officer, Jo Taylor, says: “we have benefited a great deal from engaging with global philanthropy and see this as an opportunity to continue these dialogues. One of the key drivers for us in hosting this year’s retreat is to understand how others engage meaningfully with the depth and breadth of lived experience to inform the way they work and support others”.

Now more than ever this work is critical
The world has watched with horror as massive bushfires raged across Australia recently. Philanthropy undoubtedly has an important role to play, not only in responding to this crisis, but also in responding to the causes leading up to it. As we increasingly see the devastation caused by the climate crisis – whether you’re in Australia or seeing the effects of major flooding here in the UK – there is an urgent need for funders to establish how their work helps mitigate both the causes and effects of the existential crisis we currently face. At SIX, we intend for participants at this retreat to engage in a practical discussion about the urgent role of philanthropy in the climate crisis.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this retreat, and the rest of our programme with philanthropy – the SIX Funders Node – please get in touch at

Sophie Monaghan-Coombs is Strategy and Development Manager at Social Innovation Exchange

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