The gifts that keep giving

News /

Share this

Adjunct Professor John G Kelly, AM

Group CEO, National Heart Foundation of Australia
  1. Add me on LinkedIn
John joined the Heart Foundation in August 2016. Previous to that, he led sector reform for aged care as CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia. He has extensive clinical, management and consulting background in the health sector, including previous careers in law and in cardiac nursing and current academic appointments with the Sydney Nursing School and the University of Technology, Sydney.

We talk a lot about giving, at this time of year, but less about what it means to receive. As retailers ready themselves for the festive season, two Australian scientists are at work in separate laboratories in different states on research that will almost certainly save lives. Their work is funded through one of the largest single research grants ever offered by the Heart Foundation – made possible  by a Melbourne man whose $5 million bequest is helping tackle the country’s third biggest killer – stroke.

He is just one of the thousands of donors who each year help the Heart Foundation continue its critical work. Thanks to the generosity of everyday Australians, around 80 per cent of our funding comes from you. And for that we are immensely grateful.

But we take nothing for granted.

Recent figures confirm that fundamental shifts are underway in patterns of giving in Australia. Koda Capital’s 2018 Snapshot of Australian Giving notes that from 2015-16 tax deductible donations dropped 7 per cent, with donations moving away from smaller, traditionally structured charities to a few large, well-resourced organisations. The news is not all bad: 2.9 million volunteers still give their time to Australian charities; and promising new philanthropic models are emerging with the growth of top-end Private Ancillary Funds (PACs).

But it is also true that while 33 per cent of Australians donate, fewer of us are giving and we are giving less. It is telling that 43 per cent of those with a taxable income over $1million claim nothing in the way of tax deductions for donations to charitable organisations.

Here at the Heart Foundation we are incredibly proud of the work we do – and keenly aware that behind every statistic is a human life.  We also understand that for many of you the question is not whether to help others, but how best to do that.

Here, for the record, are some of the things we do with the money you entrust to us.

Since our first co-ordinated fundraiser, Operation Heartbeat, in 1961, the Heart Foundation has invested close to $600 million in heart research, leading to breakthroughs that have helped halve the death rate from heart disease, boosting prevention and diagnosis as well as  improving treatment and quality of life for those living with it.

We’ve backed pioneering work in cardiac rehabilitation and heart transplants, and funded hundreds of researchers including Dr Graeme Sloman, who in 1962 helped implant the first permanent pacemaker in Australia.

Fast forward to 2018. With the help of that $5 million bequest, Griffith University’s Professor Michael Good is now developing a vaccine to reduce the risk of stroke related to rheumatic heart disease (a particular health risk for Indigenous Australians). And Monash University’s Professor Sophia Zoungas is working on ways to predict and treat stroke in older patients.

Between 2018-20 we will invest more than $50 million in heart-related research. Last month alone, the Heart Foundation awarded 84 grants to researchers to explore new ways of tackling old problems.

Along the way we have supported the development of coronary care units, sponsored the country’s first coronary care ambulance and successfully lobbied for the emergency Triple Zero (000) number to be made a free call. We’ve run ground-breaking public health campaigns alerting Australians to the risks of passive smoking and the benefits of eating better and exercising more.

But there is so much more to do. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in Australia – and we know that most of those deaths are preventable. With your support we can help prevent them. Every donation helps us deliver research, support and programs that not only save the lives of adults, teens and children, but that help all of us to get on with the precious business of living and learning and loving.

That’s quite a gift.