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Charity begins at home

By Stephen Hagan - posted Thursday, 4 January 2007

Early last month I was invited to speak at the prestigious Bangkok WINGS forum, Making a Difference in Philanthropy, and took the opportunity during the delivery of my paper to press home the point that charity does in fact begin at home.

The WINGS, Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support, forum brings together all major global philanthropic organisations to discuss new initiatives in charity giving and to network. Organisations were invited from regions including Africa (Sub-Saharan), Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North Africa-Middle East, and North America.

Prominent non-Australian organisations in attendance included The United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organisation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kellogg and Kraft to name a few. The Myer Foundation was prominent among the strong Australian delegation of charitable groups.


I was fortunate to be sponsored by a large United States based philanthropic organisation; and the organisation I will be in the employ of - spending several months a year at their California base and the remainder of the year working with Indigenous specific projects in Australia, as this article goes to print.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines philanthropy as: “love of mankind, esp. as manifested in deeds of practical beneficence; benevolent.”

I can still vividly remember incidents of charitable acts from others when I was a child, and said so in my 2005 book The N Word - One man’s stand (p. 37):

On the occasional Sunday after church the white folk of Cunnamulla would drive to the end of the bitumen road to unload large boxes of clothing and toys. It didn’t matter to us kids that they were rejects or outgrown items from their children. After the white folk had climbed back into their cars and headed to the safety of town, there would be a mad rush to see what booty we could claim.

So yes the sprint was definitely on when white folks hastily presented their charitable boxes at the edge of the cemetery for us camp kids to share and enjoy.

Back then I never really thought of it as an act of charity and I certainly hadn’t heard of the word philanthropy. Even today when I tell my friends that I’m going to work in the field of philanthropy - some of them innocently shake their heads and ask why I would want to leave a good academic job to go stamp collecting. I told them that they got my job description mixed up with philately.


Even though I had grown to become more acquainted with the meaning of philanthropy from direct involvement as a volunteer worker in recent times, I still felt I needed to do a crash course on the specifics of this charitable and noble profession in order to fashion a paper of substance.

Accessing data from a recent Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs report on philanthropy I discovered the following snippets of information. In 2005:

  • $7.7 billion was donated by Australian individuals;
  • $5.7 billion was donated by 13.4 million people (87 per cent of adult Australians);
  • over $2 billion was donated by the corporate sector in cash and $1.1 billion in services;
  • the average donation was $424 per year; and
  • $2 billion was provided by 10.5 million individuals through “charity gambling” or support for events.
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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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