Gonski asks philanthropists to have more heart

ANZ chairman David Gonski believes Australian philanthropists must give with more rigour as assets that have taken years to accumulate are too often spent on a whim.

Speaking at the Philanthropy Australia National Conference in Melbourne yesterday, Gonski acknowledged there are wealthy Australians who could do better when it comes to philanthropy but there are also those who go too far in the other direction.

"Some business people actually go the opposite way. I recently sat through an interview where there were all these KPIs for a donation to a particular cause and I controversially said 'what about a KPI that relates to one's heart' and one which actually looks to see what that money is doing," he said.

Philanthropists often wield much power yet they must recognise a lot of people are extremely happy to have success in other forms, the financial services veteran said.

He cited a recent university visit (Gonski is also chancellor at the University of New South Wales) where a successful PhD student was more than satisfied to continue her research on AIDS as opposed to taking on other higher-profile roles. This is a meaningful contribution and one which should be nurtured, Gonski said.

"A lot of people say philanthropy is the right thing to do and that you're doing good and wonderful things. I make it quite clear that my giving with time or money is for me," he said.

"If you work in a profession that isn't saving lives, you can use part of that to be a multiplier for changing lives."

Speaking about his chairmanship at ANZ, Gonski said he initially took the role with his eyes wide open. He'd spent several years being a stand-in director at ANZ.

"I know there's a lot of criticism of the industry but banking does some amazing things," he said.

"The banks are a vital artery of the community. I've always been mesmerised by banking - the good and the bad it can do. It was a logical step up to see if I could do some good."

Gonski is arguably most known for his education funding review. In 2010, then Education Minister Julia Gillard called Gonski to review the funding of Australian education.

"My initial thought was that this is ridiculous. I'm not an educator, I was and am still a chancellor at a university but I'm not trained as an educator ... [but] it's probably the best thing I did in my life," he said.

He said it took nine months to produce the first Gonski report and from then on education became an obsession and it still is.

"I accept a lot of people don't agree with it [the report] and often it's because there's not enough money for them in it," Gonski said.

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Read more: ANZDavid GonskiJulia GillardPhilanthropy AustraliaUniversity of New South Wales
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