HELLO FROM
OUR CHAIRMAN
STEVE SARGENT

My name is Steve Sargent and I am the new Chair of the Origin Foundation Board. I am delighted to have this opportunity having recently taken over from Gordon Cairns, who has done a tremendous job chairing the foundation since it was created in 2010.

As you may know, the focus of the Origin Foundation is education, specifically the goal of using education to break the cycle of disadvantage and empower young Australians to reach their potential. I am personally passionate about leveraging education to provide people with better opportunities, which lead to better lives. I joined the Origin Energy board in May 2015 after a 22-year career at General Electric in global leadership roles. I am also on the Board of the Veda Group, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Bond University.

The foundation has benefited from excellent leadership and governance since its inception in 2010. The Board take their governance responsibilities seriously and we have ensured we have diverse skills and capabilities appropriate for the activities of the Origin Foundation.

One of my first observations of the Foundation was its commitment to accountability and transparency of not only our activities, but also the activities of our partners. Everything we do with our partners requires them to be fully accountable and transparent for the investments we make in them.

In 2015 we conducted a survey to obtain feedback on our performance from our partners. This is the third time we have completed this survey since 2012. The Origin Foundation was the organisation that introduced such a survey for the first time to Australian philanthropy. I want to thank our program partners who participated this year in the independent survey of our performance. The Head of Foundation will detail the report’s findings. Overall we performed very well with our performance meeting or exceeding the performance of a similar cohort of foundations. It provides terrific information so we can continuously improve what we do.

I am genuinely excited to be chairing the Foundation and have enormous admiration and respect for the work of our Grant and Volunteer Program partners. I look forward to meeting all of our partners and learning more about the wonderful work they do.

Finally, I want to thank Gordon Cairns for his leadership of the Origin Foundation in its formative years. I also want to acknowledge the contribution of my fellow Board members who give of their time, experience and intellect. Based on the feedback in the recent partner survey, Gordon and the Board have done an impressive job. I am proud to take on the batten.

HELLO FROM OUR
HEAD OF FOUNDATION
SEAN BARRETT

Measuring the impact of philanthropic foundations is notoriously difficult; a point I have made in previous annual reviews.

While we seek transparency and accountability from our grant partners we believe it is only right that we apply the same principles to ourselves.

One of the ways we do this is through an independently-conducted and anonymous survey of our Grant Program, and Volunteer Program partners past and present. We first did this in 2012. This year was the third iteration of the survey and I want to thank those who participated. Your participation this year, and for some previously, has spawned a new measure for the philanthropic sector called the Philanthropic Benchmark Initiative.

After the first survey in 2012, Philanthropy Australia asked that we share the work as part of a series of seminars they were conducting on evaluation and measurement. That led to other foundations wishing to adopt the survey. There are now seven foundations participating and soon to be more. They range from one of the oldest and most venerable, to one of the newest, so it is a good cross-section. For the Origin Foundation this means we can measure ourselves over time, and now against a benchmark of other foundations.

The good news is that our partners are generally satisfied with us. There are some key areas though that I would like to highlight - both good and bad.

  • The previous survey identified areas of weakness and we have greatly improved on them. Particularly important is our understanding of funding issues.
  • We are keenly aware of the burden that bureaucracy and reporting can impose and we have improved here. However, we are seen as slow to communicate. I am not being defensive, but the researcher suggests there could be unrealistic expectations. We are a team of four, but two are part-time.
  • We use the term “partner” deliberately because we are trying to breakdown the “master-servant” relationship that can develop between funder and fundee. We have improved but there is still work to do.
  • Over the past 12 months we have narrowed our funding focus. This has led to us not renewing some funding relationships which now fall outside our area of focus. We have not communicated this well, nor have we been good at managing this process in every case.
  • We pursue an Engaged Philanthropy model. This means that we offer added value to our Grant Program partners primarily through access to skilled volunteering. For those accessing skilled volunteering they report good outcomes, but not all our Grant Program partners realise this opportunity exists.

Once again thank you for participating in the survey. It is important that we perform as well as possible so that we are facilitating our partners’ work, because we all want to use education to break the cycle of disadvantage and empower young people to reach their potential.

To request a copy of the full report, please contact us at info@originfoundation.com.au

In this Annual Review we will focus on our support of Indigenous education. Let’s not think there are no solutions. There are. What is needed is the discipline to not panic and look for silver bullets and not to be lured into funding the new at the expense of the proven.

If we focus too much on the size of the challenge in Indigenous education and the slow progress made up until now we will become dispirited. We must focus on the bright spots and harness today’s human potential. We must not delay while new schemes are designed, tested and developed. If we do not focus on what is working, there will be another generation of under achievement and the consequent personal and community loss this represents.

fiNANCIAL REPORT
Distribution amount 2014/15
$1.82M
Grants Program
$0.13M
Give Time (Volunteering)
$0.37M
Give 2 (Matched Giving)
$2.3M
Total
Distribution amount since our inception in 2010
$14.15M
Grants Program
$1.36M
Give Time (Volunteering)
$1.58M
Give 2 (Matched Giving)
$17.09M
Total
our GraNts ProGram

Our Grant Program focuses on three areas:

  Science, Technology Engineering and Maths Education Equality of Educational Opportunity A Stronger Community Sector
Goal Facilitate greatergender diversity in STEM education. Support educational attainment by children marginalised because they are Indigenous, or live in rural and remote areas. Increase the professionalism and productivity of the Not-for-Profit sector through provision of training and development.
Rationale The Chief Scientist has nominated STEM as critical to future social and economic success. He has also pointed out the alarming decline in females participating in STEM. The Productivity Commission in its report on Deep and Persistent Disadvantage pointed out these two areas. Education attainment is the key to the future prospects of all children. Aligns with the Community Council of Australia’s agenda for creating a more robust sector.

The following chart shows how our partnerships fit into these areas of focus:

  • The Smith Family Supported the development of Let’s Count early numeracy program and its evaluation.
  • Sir John Monash Foundation Funding post-graduate scholarships in Sustainability and Engineering until 2022.
  • Good Beginnings Funding literacy/numeracy program in rural Qld.
  • Beacon Foundation Origin employees are helping teachers develop real-world lesson plans and share their career experiences with students.
  • Engineers Without Borders Origin scientists/engineers volunteering in high school outreach program.
  • Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience Funding the scaling of this program which has proven to keep Indigenous students in high school.
  • Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy Contributed to Indigenous culture and language program.
  • Career Trackers Creation of a pipeline between high school and graduate/intern programs.
  • Gawura School Supporting Indigenous students through primary school and expansion of the Gawura model.
  • Indi Kindi Funded early childhood intervention model for some of Australia’s most remote communities.
  • Stronger Smarter Institute Supporting the professional development of teachers for Indigenous students.
  • Country Education Foundation Australian Scholarships to help country students access further education and training.
  • Foundation For Rural & Regional Renewal More than 15,000 ‘Back to School’ $50 vouchers distributed to families in need in regional and rural Australia.
  • Principals Australia Scholarships to help principals thrive in a rural/regional setting.
  • Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools Helping the schools that need them the most, get access to the best teachers.
  • Australian Scholarships Foundation 187 scholarships so far awarded for professional development of non-profit employees.
  • Australian-American Fulbright Commission Funding professional scholarships in Non-Profit Leadership.
  • Centre for Social Impact Measuring social return from education and training - an advocacy tool.
  • The Smith Family Supported the development of Let’s Count early numeracy program and its evaluation.
  • Sir John Monash Foundation Funding post-graduate scholarships in Sustainability and Engineering until 2022.
  • Good Beginnings Funding literacy/numeracy program in rural Qld.
  • Beacon Foundation Origin employees are helping teachers develop real-world lesson plans and share their career experiences with students.
  • Engineers Without Borders Origin scientists/engineers volunteering in high school outreach program.
  • Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience Funding the scaling of this program which has proven to keep Indigenous students in high school.
  • Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy Contributed to Indigenous culture and language program.
  • Career Trackers Creation of a pipeline between high school and graduate/intern programs.
  • Gawura School Supporting Indigenous students through primary school and expansion of the Gawura model.
  • Indi Kindi Funded early childhood intervention model for some of Australia’s most remote communities.
  • Stronger Smarter Institute Supporting the professional development of teachers for Indigenous students.
  • Country Education Foundation Australian Scholarships to help country students access further education and training.
  • Foundation For Rural & Regional Renewal More than 15,000 ‘Back to School’ $50 vouchers distributed to families in need in regional and rural Australia.
  • Principals Australia Scholarships to help principals thrive in a rural/regional setting.
  • Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools Helping the schools that need them the most, get access to the best teachers.
  • Australian Scholarships Foundation 187 scholarships so far awarded for professional development of non-profit employees.
  • Australian-American Fulbright Commission Funding professional scholarships in Non-Profit Leadership.
  • Centre for Social Impact Measuring social return from education and training - an advocacy tool.

The past year has seen extraordinary work being done in all these areas by the organisations we support, but this year’s review will focus on Indigenous education.

Before we get too depressed by the latest disappointing Closing the Gap results we should reflect on the work that is succeeding, and learn from it. The danger of the latest report, and the lack of progress, is that it will lead to the belief that nothing is working and we need to start again: out with the old, in with the new.

In the 2014 Government-requested review into closing the gap in employment, the Forrest Review highlighted the primacy of education in breaking the cycle of Indigenous disadvantage: “...there is no disparity in employment between first Australians with a decent education and other Australians. A decent education means leaving school with Year 12 or equivalent qualifications and the ability to go on to further education and training.”

There are programs which are successfully addressing Indigenous education from primary school to university. Not all of them are necessarily captured when consolidating figures into a national report such as Closing the Gap.

Programs we have supported which are showing promise are:

  • Indi Kindi - Borroloola in the Northern Territory is one of the most remote communities in Australia. The Indi Kindi program was shaped by the local community, and is run by locals. It is working with pre-school children and their parents so that the culture shock experienced when starting school doesn’t deter them from attending. One hundred children are enrolled, and the neighbouring community of Robertson has adopted Indi Kindi there, too. This is a program growing organically through the community.
  • Gawura is a specialist primary day school for young Indigenous students from Sydney’s inner suburbs. It is housed within St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the middle of the Sydney CBD. It was set up in 2007 as a collaboration between St Andrew’s and the Indigenous community of Redfern. Children at Gawura have achieved greater than the national average in NAPLAN tests. The first Gawura ‘graduate’ has gone on successfully through St Andrew’s secondary school and has entered university.
  • The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience works with secondary school children. Its goals are to increase year 10 and then year 12 attendance and progression rates to work or further education. It is achieving the same rates of school retention among its mentees as among the general population. It is mobilising university students to act as mentors for Indigenous children. The program started at Sydney University with 25 children. Now it operates in 100 schools using mentors from 10 universities in three States.
  • The Stronger Smarter Institute is working in 450 schools reaching 32,000 children with its message of high expectations. It is improving educational outcomes through quality teacher-student relationships, strong school leadership, and local school communities with high expectations.
  • CareerTrackers is a program tackling the shocking drop-out rate of Indigenous students at university, which can be as high as 62%. Working with businesses, CareerTrackers is providing support and internships and keeping its students at university as the same rate as non-Indigenous students.

We are but one of many philanthropic foundations funding Indigenous education programs and we can point to successes like this. Programs that show, where given the right circumstances, Indigenous children can thrive.

There is unlikely to be one answer to the issue of Indigenous education - the problems of a child in a remote community are very different from a child in a metropolitan or regional centre - but let’s not think there are no solutions. Let’s celebrate what is working in Indigenous education and ask how we can help these successes be replicated and scaled around the country.

school kids
Give Time VolUnTeeRing ProGram

We continue to provide a range of volunteering options for Origin employees to access through paid volunteer leave. This year we linked our skilled volunteering opportunities more closely with our focus on education, and provided more generic volunteering activities through scheduled and team events, such as cooking breakfast for The Big Issue vendors, or restoring native habitat with Conservation Volunteers.

Origin employees gave 5,809 hours in FY 2014/15, to 17 non-profit organisations.

While we continue to monitor our contribution through number of hours and participation rates, we also consider the impact of support provided through volunteering programs such as The Big Issue Women’s Subscription Enterprise, for our community partners, and for our employees.

Our skilled volunteers, in particular, found that they were more able to empathise with others because they had a greater awareness of wider social issues.

Those who had volunteered with their team found that the shared experience helped with team bonding, by raising their collective social consciousness.

Volunteering is now more flexible than ever before. For those unable to access volunteering away from the workplace, we’re increasingly offering "virtual volunteering" opportunities, such as online mentoring. And for the first time, Origin’s regional facilities at Eraring and Townsville hosted an operational site experience for students from Beacon Foundation schools in 2015.

Origin Volunteers: A GOOD CALL FOR THE BIG ISSUE READ MORE
Give2 MatChed GivIng ProGram

Origin employees continue to give generously to a range of charities through our Give2 matched giving program. When matched, $747,908 went to Australian charities in FY 2014/15 – the highest in our Foundation’s history.

Participation rates in our payroll giving program have remained steady, with the greatest amount of donations going to Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam and The Salvation Army. Many employees choose to give to specific programs with which they feel a personal connection, including sponsorship of disadvantaged children, food for rescued animals, or cancer research.

Involvement in fundraising initiatives continues to increase, whether coordinated by individual employees, combined team efforts, or in support of business-wide awareness programs such as Beyond Blue during Mental Health Week, or White Ribbon Day. Almost $100,000 was contributed to charities in the fields of cancer research and support.

Relief efforts following natural disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes and bushfires continue to be well supported by our employees who wish to provide assistance, knowing that their contributions will be matched through our Give2 program.

SpeCial EveNts for OriGin ParEnts

Parents remain the biggest influence on a child's education and when parents are engaged with their child's learning, children generally have better outcomes. Recognising that working parents who are juggling busy family and professional lives need support, too, we offered our special events program for Origin parents again this year.

The program invites our grant program partners to share their education-related expertise with Origin employees. More than 500 employees, some with their families, have participated in these sessions to date, which have included:

  • Let’s Count @ Work – is based on The Smith Family’s Let’s Count program which helps children in some of Australia’s most disadvantaged communities develop the early numeracy skills they will need for school. Let’s Count @ Work is an hour-long workshop, specifically tailored for working parents, which provides fun and practical ways to notice, explore and discuss maths in everyday life. We have worked closely with The Smith Family in the past year to evolve Let’s Count @ Work into a self-sustaining model: Let’s Count @ Work sessions are sold to corporate organisations and the revenue raised is channelled back into running Let’s Count in the communities that need it the most.
  • What Makes a Good School – could you identify a ‘good school’ and how do you choose the right one for your child? These, and other school-related questions were discussed in a seminar offered to Origin parents, led by education expert and Big Picture director, Chris Bonnor AM.
  • Read 2 Me mobile library– the benefits of reading to children are many, and it’s never too early to start. Sharing books with children is a great way to build relationships, develop their language skills and help them learn about the world. And now, employees in Origin’s Adelaide office can borrow books to share with their children, without leaving their desks. We have partnered with non-profit organisation Raising Literacy Australia, to trial a mobile children’s library, where employees have the chance to borrow two children’s books for two weeks at a time.

Alex Thomson, Origin Resolutions Agent understands the importance of building early literacy skills. “Nothing is more important or precious than a child’s development and it’s so great to see Origin get on board. I can’t wait to start using this program at home and seeing it be successful” he said.