PERTH, Australia – Mining magnate Andrew Forrest pledged on Tuesday to give 65 million Australian dollars (about $64 million Cdn) to university education in his home state in one of Australia’s largest philanthropic donations.
The chairman of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group said AU$50 million will be used to establish the Forrest Foundation to fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships at all five universities in Western Australia state.
Another AU$15 million will build a residence for rising star researchers called Forrest Hall at St. George’s College at the University of Western Australia.
BRW magazine this year ranked Forrest, widely known by his nickname Twiggy, as Australia’s 9th richest person with a fortune estimated at AU$3.7 billion.
Forrest, a 52-year-old entrepreneur who graduated from the University of Western Australia in 1983 with an economics degree, said Australia needed to develop a higher-profile philanthropic culture.
“Let us all never forget that only education can be the final key to eliminate poverty in the world and raise the universal standard of living, ultimately to increase the nobility of the human cause,” Forrest said in a statement.
Forrest and his wife Nicola are the first Australians to join “The Giving Pledge” movement founded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett, the head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The pledge commits billionaires to donate most of their wealth to charity.
Anna Draffin, deputy chief executive officer of the charity umbrella group Philanthropy Australia, described the Forrest gift as the biggest ever philanthropic donation from an Australian.
Only Irish-American businessman and philanthropist Chuck Feeney has been more generous in Australia, donating AU$500 million toward mostly higher education and medical research projects.