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Beersheba and philanthropy

By David Flint - posted Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Australia has an extraordinary heritage. One of the world's oldest and most successful democracies, but with a small population, the nation has played a remarkably significant role in world affairs, and above all, in the struggle for freedom.

An example of a truly outstanding Australian contribution occurred during the Sinai and Palestine campaign in World War I. The charge on October 31, 1917 by the Australian Light Horse Division's 4th Brigade against the Turkish positions at Beersheba under Brigadier William Grant was a turning point in the campaign. It was probably the last great - and successful - cavalry charge in history.

Last year, on its 90th anniversary, a group of  dedicated  Australians re-enacted the charge. It is a signal event of which they were rightly proud, as should be all Australians.


Three days after Anzac Day this year, the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery and the President of Israel, Mr Shimon Peres, will jointly open The Park of the Australian Soldier at Beersheba.

The Park features a landscaped recreational area and playground catering for children with disabilities. The central feature is a sculpture by Peter Corlett, an Australian. The sculpture commemorates the charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba.

Such a memorial, particularly one on this scale, is normally undertaken by the Commonwealth government. On this occasion the Park is being funded by a unique Australian family, one with a truly magnificent record of disinterested philanthropy.

To be fair, the government was not asked to contribute, although the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin, is considering maintaining the sculptured monument. And the government was closely involved in planning the project and is sending a military delegation and seven Light Horse veterans to the opening ceremony.

The Park is an initiative of the Pratt Foundation, whose benefactors are Richard and Jeanne Pratt. It is only one of a surprisingly vast range of charitable, educational and cultural causes which they have aided, and aided with great generosity and without any hope whatsoever of personal advantage.

Just in the last decade Richard and Jeanne Pratt have, through the Pratt Foundation, donated $84,000,000 to such charities. In fact, since the Foundation was established in 1978, they have given away - given away without strings - around $130,000,000. And in this, they have acted as a wonderful magnet to others to give to these very worthy causes, helping raise an estimated $200,000,000.


And this family are not just passive benefactors. Both have served the community and the nation voluntarily in leadership roles in a wide variety of charitable, educational and cultural organisations.

In the meantime Richard Pratt has been a leading contributor to national debates on a remarkable range of issues - water management, population planning and immigration, climate change and industry.

Now Mr Pratt has been criticised in recent times for his role in a recent trade practice case about a price fixing and market sharing agreement between the Visy Group and Amcor. Amcor subsequently reported this to the ACCC in return for a guarantee of immunity, and as a result the ACCC sued Visy, but not Amcor.

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About the Author

David Flint is a former chairman of the Australian Press Council and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, is author of The Twilight of the Elites, and Malice in Media Land, published by Freedom Publishing. His latest monograph is Her Majesty at 80: Impeccable Service in an Indispensable Office, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Sydney, 2006

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