Closing the education gap: How three APS clients are making a difference
Educational philanthropy has the power to transform lives and communities. Public funding often falls short, and philanthropists can play a vital role in closing the gaps in equity and access.
In this article, Australian Philanthropic Services (APS) clients Kate Prendiville, Scott Williams AO, and Dr Mark Irwin share their personal passion projects in education, and how structured giving helps amplify their impact over the longer term.
Setting people up for life
Kate Prendiville, K & J Prendiville Foundation (PAF)
Kate Prendiville, co-founder of the Prendiville Family Foundation, sees education as a crucial pillar for setting people up for life. She and her family have supported a range of programs focused on early childhood education, literacy and numeracy, and parental well-being.
"Receiving assistance with education and extra-curricular activities can be instrumental to children having confidence, inclusion and feeling part of their community."
Kate Prendeville, K & J Prendiville Foundation
“Receiving assistance with education and extra-curricular activities can be instrumental to children having confidence, inclusion and feeling part of their community,” explains Kate. “This also impacts directly on their mental health.”
“For example, we grant to a group that enables parents to apply for help so their children are able to get a basketball uniform and play with a team or to undertake dance classes or music lessons.”
APS helped her family identify charities in other key interest areas, focused on a child’s first 1,000 days and improving education in rural areas.
“We are particularly proud of supporting a specialist literacy and numeracy program with Schools Plus, a schools partnership program with Kids XPress, and the work of Gidget Foundation Australia, who train psychologists and counsellors to support the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents. The Foundation also supports education at secondary and tertiary levels via the Citylink program and the University of Notre Dame Australia. Without the knowledge base and support at APS, some of these causes may not have so readily become known to us.”
A rewarding multiplier effect
Scott Williams AO, Scott Williams Foundation (PAF)
Scott Williams AO has been funding education for over 20 years and started a private ancillary fund (PAF) in 2017 to make his charitable giving go further. For Scott, the most satisfying part of supporting education is the long-term multiplier effect of his giving.
“It’s a tremendous return on investment for donors. I’m a businessperson, so I can’t help it – it’s using the same approach to create efficiency and be effective.”
"The leveraging effect really attracts me. Over the course of their lifetime, a successful student might easily earn 100 times whatever I may have given them from additional income because of their training."
Scott Williams AO, Scott Williams Foundation
By supporting university students in business and education, Scott is investing in the long-term economic development of regional areas. “Evidence shows that people who study in the regions go back to the regions, and this keeps the town’s economy going. The money I give to help one student complete a degree will be multiplied by the people they ultimately employ, and one qualified teacher during their career might teach 600 students.”
He also supports primary school literacy and numeracy programs with The Smith Family to build foundational skills for lifelong impact.
“The leveraging effect really attracts me. Over the course of their lifetime, a successful student might easily earn 100 times whatever I may have given them from additional income because of their training.”
Scott sees the tax benefits of a PAF as an extension of his strategic and long-term approach to giving. “The PAF is a tremendous tool to boost my philanthropy. Anyone who is thinking about a PAF, I would highly encourage it.”
Giving people a stronger voice
Dr Mark Irwin, Irwin Family (APS Foundation)
Oracy, the skill of speaking and listening, is a long-term personal passion for dentist Dr Mark Irwin, who has been an advocate for people who stutter for 30 years. Through the Irwin Family giving fund in the APS foundation, he supports better education, research, and support for children and young adults with speech difficulties.
“Supporting Oracy initiatives appeals to me given my history as someone who stutters. While it is only a very minor difficulty now there was a time when stuttering consumed every waking moment,” says Mark. He sees the same issues that confronted him as a child at school still occurring today, which is a key motivation to drive change.
“Besides the obvious communication difficulty there is now strong evidence to show inability to speak well impacts negatively on learning achievements generally, and contributes significantly to psychological ill -health. In addition to supporting those who stutter there is the broader challenge to ensure effective support for all children who are struggling with speech acquisition for a diversity of physical, neurological and cognitive reasons”.
Pictured: Dr Mark Irwin with lecturers from the university of South Australia
Dr Irwin actively advocates for policy change. He has met with the Minister for Education and funded visiting research fellows at the University of South Australia to give public lectures, promote new research, and stimulate excellence in academia.
“As a result of combining philanthropy with advocacy I’ve met many other people in the universities and education system who want more emphasis on Oracy and can see the need to have it move out from under Literacy’s shadow. It is very satisfying for me to be able to contribute to the much-needed work they are doing.”