The New Age of Australian Philanthropy.

The rapid ageing of the world’s population (from which Australia will not be exempt) will create significantly increased demand for medical facilities and research, as well as a great need for research and development to create the new products and services that seniors will need to help them adapt to a new world of advanced technology.

The good news is that Australia is uniquely placed to lead the world in this ground-breaking era if we are prepared to significantly invest in its achievement. One innovative way will be through philanthropy.

Per head of population, Australia has a far smaller number of charitable trusts and foundations than the United States, and the capital that we donate or bequeath to those entities is many billions of dollars less than the gifts of Americans — despite the considerable generosity of great Australians in past years like Ian Potter, Sidney Myer, Richard Pratt and others.

Now, with Australia having the greatest number of wealthy people in its history, as well as a very solid and substantial middle class, most of whom are in their senior years, the opportunity is with us to use philanthropy as the prime funder of research and innovation in the decisive decades ahead. When you look at it pragmatically, the making of a substantial bequest to capitalise a foundation that bears your name is a very painless procedure for you as the donor.

You make all the legal arrangements now and, when you die, your trustee writes out the cheque and you are at peace because you are beyond having to worry about paying the rent next Friday.

You will have already specified how you want the money to be invested and used, and you will be working for a greater Australia for a long time to come.

I once read the annual report of a charity which told the story of how two spinsters had given them three major donations during the year to buy new specialist equipment. The report added: “This is amazing when you remember that they died 25 years ago.”

A lot of the research and pioneering can be done through not-for-profit corporations, headed by visionaries who will need grants from foundations to get them started, and who will re-invest profits for further research.

The time has come for this philanthropic initiative to be widely promoted and organised, and I know some people who are planning a campaign to achieve this next year. The whole initiative will show that an ageing population is not a national burden. They will become a philanthropic powerhouse that is building a great nation.

In case you feel that I am just an old windbag who is promoting a wild idea that others will pay for, let me report that the Everald Compton Charitable Trust already exists. It has limited capital now, but Helen and I have provided for a bequest to it in our wills.