Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Australians suffering disaster fatigue

  • Print

BRISBANE -- Just as an Australian businessman handed over a whopping $50 million to aspiring university students, the spirit of generosity appears to be fading away among his compatriots.

Canberra-born Graham Tuckwell this week impressed the nation with the largest financial donation ever made to an Australian university.

His $50 million will fund undergraduate scholarships at the Australian National University for the next two decades.

Tuckwell can afford to be generous. He established ETF Securities after studying at ANU and controls about $30 billion worth of assets.

He and wife Louise reportedly not only wanted to help educate young Australians, but want to avoid spoiling their children with a massive inheritance.

"Lots of money is poisonous to have," he said.

If you take away the breadth of the Bill-Gates-like donation, the kindly gesture is not uncommon in a country that often coughs up enormous amounts of cash to help charitable causes.

Australia might not have the great northern American philanthropic tradition exemplified by the Rockefellers, but ordinary people are quick to send off small sums to those in need.

Just as Tuckwell was writing his cheque, however, thousands of Australians appeared to be snapping their purses shut.

Few outside of Australia probably are aware that January brought yet another massive flood to the northern state of Queensland.

The disaster is just another in a series of natural catastrophes going back to February 2008 when the north Queensland city of Mackay was swamped with a one-in-50-year flood.

From there came more floods, the 2009 Victorian bushfires which claimed more than 170 lives, a powerful cyclone and, in the past few weeks, bush fires and flooding.

In the city of Bundaberg about 400 kilometres north of the Queensland capital Brisbane, hundreds of families lost everything they own as flood waters swept through streets.

Yet when the call went out for cash Australians appeared to turn their backs.

The 2013 Queensland Flood Appeal is almost $10 million short of providing immediate relief to flood victims.

Former Queensland treasurer Terry Mackenroth said the appeal had nowhere near enough money to meet immediate need.

Just under $6 million was in the can at the start of the week when about $15 million was required.

The world-wide charitable organization St. Vincent de Paul also notes donations are far below the outpouring of cash that followed the 2010-2011 Queensland floods, which captured international attention.

One explanation is the federal government's decision to slap a flood levy on all Australians to help pay for the cleanup in 2011.

That angered many of those who had already given to charity and believed they were being forced into a second donation.

But Brian Moore, president of the Queensland arm of St. Vincents, suggests a tougher economic climate combined with a sense of donor fatigue is drying up the rivers of goodwill.

On the Pro Bono Australia website Andrew Thomas, general manager of Philanthropy at Perpetual, says not-for-profit organizations supporting communities are struggling.

Despite a sophisticated three-tier system of government that does an admirable job in disaster management, Australia still relies heavily on simple charity to get through disasters.

Thomas says the spirit of giving is essential to a functioning community. The nation simply can't afford a bout of compassion fatigue.

 

Michael Madigan is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 A8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Theresa Oswald Leadership Bid

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 25, 2013 - 130625  -  A storm lit up Winnipeg Tuesday, June 25, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press - lightning
  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google