Virtually together – attending the 2021 Philanthropy Australia online conference

Over two separate but complementary two-day events in April and May, Philanthropy Australia (PA) delivered its 2021 National Conference in an entirely online format, adapted in response to pandemic conditions to ensure participants from around Australia could access the important learnings and connections on offer.

Taking advantage of the newly reopened state borders, the Brisbane-based TFFF team accepted a warm invitation from our peers at the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) to join them in their Sydney office and experience this much anticipated annual professional development event together in person.

From the VFFF boardroom overlooking the spectacular Sydney Harbour, we enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with our Sydney friends and colleagues for the conference plenary sessions on 21 and 22 April.

The spectacular view from the VFFF boardroom in Sydney.
Hard at work around the board table. L-R: Angus White (VFFF), David Hardie (VFFF), Jenny Wheatley (VFFF), Tim Fairfax AC, Claire Mannion (VFFF), Natalie Buckett (VFFF).

Day 1 sessions centred on the future of philanthropy globally and in Australia, and on the role of philanthropy in ‘building back better’ following large-scale crises such as bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which have presented significant challenges over the past eighteen months. A mix of keynote presentations and panel discussions made for a rich program filled with insights and A-ha! moments for the TFFF/VFFF team who captured these on a thought wall, pictured below.

The end of a productive day one. L-R: David Hardie (VFFF), Angela Timbs and Neal Harvey (TFFF), Jenny Wheatley, Claire Mannion, Natalie Buckett and Camilla Chapman (VFFF).
Philanthropy Australia CEO Jack Heath.

At the conclusion of Day 1, VFFF generously hosted Philanthropy Champions’ Drinks, which provided a further opportunity to connect with a broader group of philanthropic peers and debrief on the day’s sessions. A main topic of discussion was Philanthropy Australia’s newly developed Blueprint to Grow Giving, unveiled by PA CEO Jack Heath in the final afternoon session, which provides a 10-year strategy to double giving by 2030. Based on extensive stakeholder engagement and consultation, the Blueprint provides a roadmap for enhancing Australia’s culture of philanthropy and capitalising on the $2.6 trillion intergenerational wealth transfer expected to happen over the next few decades.

Day 2 saw an equally thought-provoking line up of sessions which invited deep reflection on a range of more specialised topics, such as gender equity, the role of philanthropy in boosting First Nations outcomes, decolonisation, and emerging trends in philanthropic best practice. Live entertainment by Gondwana Choirs and writer/artist Kirli Saunders completed the program with music and poetry that moved and inspired us, despite being mediated through an online platform.

TFFF returned home to Brisbane fully charged with fresh ideas, renewed vigour, and pride in being part of a community of philanthropic organisations dedicated to making meaningful change in Australia and the world. We congratulate PA on the strength and success of their online program, and look forward to the next conference being face-to-face in 2022.