Atlantic’s decision to pursue opportunities in Australia can be traced back Chuck Feeney’s return visit to the country in the late 1990s. Although primarily a trip to explore opportunities to develop resort properties, as he did everywhere he traveled, Feeney also kept his eyes open for possible Atlantic investments. The rugged and overlooked country, with its can-do attitude reminded Feeney of Ireland, where Atlantic had already started to do work in education and health to great effect. It was a country of high intellectual capital that was, at the time, undervalued. He saw that there was room for elevation.
Something about Queensland—the people and their ambition to doff their “underdog” label—drew Feeney especially to that state. He learned about the needs of the University of Queensland (UQ), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the then Queensland Institute of Medical Research (now QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute), all based in Brisbane. The three institutions had the right ingredients for an Atlantic investment: bright students and faculty, ambitious development ideas, smart leaders and scarce resources.
Over the years, Atlantic made grants reaching 23 organizations across Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, and co-funded the creation of eight new research institutes. The foundation leveraged more than $2 billion in matched giving from state and federal governments and other donors. Its investments helped raise Australia to its international science and innovation standing, expanded the reach of health services to thousands of people, constructed 26 new facilities in four states, and built capacity in leadership and philanthropy so that Australia might take better advantage of its own endemic gifts and thrive into its future.
Atlantic completed its grantmaking in 2016 with its largest grant in Australia (US $50 million) to establish the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity, a program for mid-career leaders committed to tackling persistent inequality and social exclusion in Australia and the Pacific, particularly among Indigenous communities.
The Atlantic Philanthropies: Australia
This 2017 book by Sam Gibbs tells the story of Atlantic's and our grantees' impact and work in Australia.