Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest makes record S$413m philanthropic gift

Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest attends a ceremony announcing his pledge of A$400 million, at the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, May 22, 2017.
Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest attends a ceremony announcing his pledge of A$400 million, at the Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, May 22, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest on Monday (May 22) made the country's biggest philanthropic gift by a living individual, donating A$400 million (S$413.45 million) to causes covering health, education and fighting modern slavery.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sang praises of the one-third owner of the world's No. 4 iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, who has faced occasional criticism about his treatment of indigenous people in the mineral-rich state of Western Australia.

The donation set a new benchmark for private sector philanthropy in Australia, where educators, doctors and arts organisations - the typical beneficiaries of private sector charity - have traditionally relied on government subsidies to stay afloat.

"It is a game-changer in the Australian philanthropic community," said Mr Turnbull at an event to announce Mr Forrest's donation, attended by government and opposition politicians, actor Russell Crowe and health researchers.

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He said it was a record. "This is not extracted from you by force of law, this is a matter of conviction, of your love and your commitment," Mr Turnbull added, addressing  Mr Forrest in front of the media.

Mr Forrest said he wants his donation to include A$75 million for cancer research, A$75 million for higher education, A$75 million for childhood education and $75 million to be directed towards fighting modern slavery.

"I have been very fortunate, with my wife, Nicola, to be able to accumulate and then, as soon as we can, to commence giving it away," said Mr Forrest, whose stake in his Sydney-listed company was worth A$5.6 billion at Monday's close.

Crowe said he had a history of working with Mr Forrest "which seem always connected to some gift or largess of Andrew's, or some plan to help other people".

Crowe described the donation as an "incredible A$400m gift to the nation" in a post on his official Twitter account.