Minderoo co-founder Nicola Forrest has been recognised today in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. Nicola has been awarded the second highest honour, Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her distinguished service to the community through philanthropic support for education and the arts, to business, and to the community.
The Officer of the Order of Australia is awarded for outstanding achievement and service to country.
Nicola’s husband and Minderoo’s co-founder Andrew Forrest also received an AO in 2017 for his distinguished service to the mining sector and philanthropy.
We caught up with Nicola after the announcement to ask her about the award:
Firstly, Congratulations! How are you feeling after being honoured today?
Honestly just so humbled. It’s such a tremendous gift to be recognised this way, I’m overwhelmed! I am so proud of the work we’re doing at Minderoo, and I accept this honour on behalf of the whole team. There are many people at Minderoo working hard to make the world a better place and it’s wonderful their efforts are being recognised.
Have you always been driven to give? Where did your philanthropy begin?
I think it’s a part of Australia’s DNA to help our friends and neighbours. I think most Australians at their core are empathetic and are very willing to lend a hand if someone is having a tough time.
I grew up in regional New South Wales, and I think country people are naturally very community minded. You have to band together to get things done in the country! At my school there were 30 kids in one classroom with one teacher! So, everyone really had to look out for each other to make it work.
What have you learnt about what works and what doesn’t work in philanthropy?
Minderoo was established almost 20 years ago, and when you look at our journey there are some clear patterns. We want to solve systemic problems and to do that you need collaboration.
Minderoo’s greatest successes have come from collaboration. One cause I’m particularly proud of is the Early Years Initiative (EYI), a ten-year partnership between the state government, Telethon Kids Institute and Minderoo. Because of EYI’s structure it’s able to have incredible impact across communities and really support and empower families and children.
That kind of collaboration is the key to our philanthropy. We live by the motto “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go a long way, you have to go together.”
When reflecting on your work over the years what are your highlights?
There have been so many wonderful highlights over the years it’s hard to choose… But I do often think about one particular moment when our family was visiting a community in India. Minderoo’s partner The Freedom Fund had been working on the ground there to eradicate modern slavery. I certainly got a tingle up my spine holding a beautiful baby who was the first in her family to be born into freedom, rather than bonded labour. It’s very humbling, to be a part of something like that.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I think rather than worrying about my legacy, I want to focus on the here and now. That’s the wonderful thing about helping others, anyone can do it. You don’t have to give away money, being generous with your time or talent is just as valuable.
People doing what they can with what they have is how we’re going to leave the world a better place for future generations.