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Morris Family Foundation

Responding to the bushfires and COVID-19

Tagged in: Biodiversity, Sustainable agriculture and food systems, Sustainable economy, Community development, National

Established in 2009, the Morris Family Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Morris Group which operates businesses across many sectors including tourism and hospitality.

The Foundation funds in four impact areas: Equitable growth and just societies; Food security and sustainable agriculture; Health and wellbeing for all; and Protection and restoration of the environment.

Hayley Morris, Executive Director at The Morris Group, recently shared her thoughts about the impact of the bush fires and COVID-19 on the work of the Foundation.

How has the Morris Family Foundation responded to COVID-19 and the bushfires? Are you increasing, decreasing or maintaining funding levels?

Right now, with COVID-19, we’re assessing. The main reason we’re playing a bit cautiously is because our corpus is mostly made up of stock from the company my father started, Computershare, and of course, the stock market took a massive hit. The other reason we are still assessing is that due to our portfolio of hospitality and tourism businesses being closed our attention has been elsewhere.

With the bush fires, we’ve doubled down in the climate work that we’re doing, which I suppose is not directly giving to recovery efforts though we had earmarked the mental health side of recovery but that intention got a bit side tracked with the onset of COVID-19.

On the COVID-19 side, we’ve been less focused on the emergency response, and instead looking at what the opportunities are with the rebuild and economic stimulus into a low carbon economy and how we can use this opportunity to reflect and come back with a slightly different mindset.

What are you hearing from your environmental grantees about the impact of Covid-19 and the fires?

After the bushfires we noticed there was a lot more interest in giving to climate that didn’t exist in the past. I noticed it even in conversations with other philanthropists who hadn’t traditionally given to the environment but now climate was starting to get on their radar.  

On the Covid side of things, a lot of groups we work with tend to rely more on philanthropy rather than individual donors, so the impact for these organisations is probably still a longer-term assessment as they see how their funders’ support is impacted over time.

We know this is the critical decade for the climate crisis and we have to ask ourselves, ‘What is the future impact if we don’t take that action now?’

I like to think that in these unprecedented times, the innovation and the thinking that will come out of it could be a positive. In all our grantee conversations we’re encouraging innovation and good thinking outside of the box.

I’m a very optimistic person and I think human beings are generally optimistic so I’m taking the view that this is the best opportunity to take action on climate that we’ve had. If enough of us are walking that line, then that’s the future we’ll walk into.  

Making the most of our current situation, do you have a recommended book or movie to enjoy in isolation?

I haven’t read a single book or watched a TV show because I’m now at home with three young children!

The one thing I have managed to see that I’d really recommend is The Great Realisation, a short video by the poet Tom Foolery, that’s set in the future where he is reading a storybook to his child. For all those busy people it’s only three minutes.

The pandemic has impacted how we live, work and interact with each other. What’s one thing you hope we’ll do differently on the other side of COVID-19?

I hope that we all slow down and become more mindful and present.

I’m quite dedicated to my meditation practice – I do it twice a day, so I should probably be a person who is always present and not in too much of a rush but it’s hard to resist the pull of society. I think everyone’s enjoying that the brakes have been put on. We’ve got space to think again. Let’s take that opportunity and look at how we approach our lives and think about the things we need to do differently.