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From Amanda’s Desk – October 2016

Photo courtesy of Amanda Martin (pictured with daughter)

Well what a roller coaster of a month it has been. In so many parts of Australia there have been extraordinary rainfall and storm events and other extreme weather. I have been lucky enough to travel through parts of Victoria to witness the impact of wet and windy weather. We went to Wilson Promontory for a hike and saw the true nature of Australia’s most southerly promontory of land – wet and wild, to Central Victoria to see rivers and streams flowing like we haven’t witnessed for decades and to Falls Creek in Victoria’s Alps to see substantial snow in October!

There is no question – our climate is changing. Many parts of the Murray-Darling River Basin have experienced record high rainfall this year. Actually the previous record was set only five years ago, so we have just experienced two of the biggest rainfall events in European history in a space of just five years. Despite this, inflows to the Basin in the past ten years have been below the long-term average due to the intervening years being so much hotter and drier.

September was significant for other reasons too and a busy month for philanthropy with Philanthropy Australia’s conference held in Sydney, AEGN’s environmental impact investing group workshops, the US Environmental Grantmakers Association’s Annual conference, a workshop with Australian Communities Foundation and lots of other events and outings.

This activity has given me the opportunity to reflect on how far philanthropy has come since the AEGN’s inception in 2009. The sector has become much more sophisticated and energetic with opportunities for deep discussions about the role of philanthropy in addressing the issues Australia and the rest of the world face. We have seen excellent examples of how to do this efficiently and effectively and new ways of using philanthropic capital that challenge the way we have done things in the past.

At the Philanthropy Australia conference I was reminded again and again about how valuable the philanthropic dollar is compared to other financial investment – independent from either political cycles or the singular pursuit of profit; flexible and able to take risks. And when philanthropy is at its best it funds:

  • Capacity building and support of movements, networks, backbone organisations and pilots.
  • Advocacy on policy and process, and giving voice to diversity, community and less powerful and emerging voices.
  • Innovation and testing ideas that can be replicated and scaled.

At the conference we were challenged to think of other ways, beyond grantmaking, that philanthropy can use its privileged position. I was excited to hear so many stories about the use of corpus funds as well as influence to create impact and change in the environment and in many other important areas. Congratulations to Philanthropy Australia because its 2016 conference was an outstanding success!

Over the next month I hope to see you at the AEGN AGM or one of our other events planned – including workshops on Indigenous land and sea management, and the new generation environmental law project.