AEGN

The Jaramas Foundation

Robin Craig and Mick Boyle

13 January 2021

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Robin and Mick have run civil engineering firm Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure for 26 years.

The Jaramas Foundation takes a fundamentally pragmatic approach to philanthropy: Founders Robin Craig and Mick Boyle realise that before you can improve people’s lives, you need to ensure they have a healthy planet to live on. Hence why the foundation devotes the majority of its funding towards protecting the environment and tackling climate change. 

 

Beginnings in philanthropy

In the foundation’s early days, Robin and Mick, in consultation with their four children, prioritised supporting the most disadvantaged people, at home and abroad. “We really focused on overseas refugees, homeless people within Australia, as well as some international development work.” It wasn’t until 2011, when more funds were added to the PAF, that the family began to reassess their practises. 

“At that point we were looking at what we considered to be the biggest issues facing the world. While we were supporting refugees and overseas development, we could also see that there wasn’t much point helping people when the environment was getting so badly degraded.” 

Sowing the seeds

“We turned our minds to environmental causes – we were already philosophically quite environmentally minded, so we decided to look at supporting the development of renewable baseload power.” 

At the same time, Robin and Mick were becoming increasingly informed about grantmaking and different causes through Philanthropy Australia, attending workshops and accessing information. It was here that they attended a Green Giving seminar hosted by the AEGN, and the connection was instant. “We thought right, OK, this is where we want to be.” 

The Jaramas Foundation’s commitment to the environment has only grown since Robin and Mick became members. 

“Our corpus increased” Mick recalls, “and then we pretty much continued on with our previous plans [supporting development and refugees] while the majority of our increased capability to give went to the environment.” 

This made signing up to The Environmental Giving Pledge a logical step. “We were heading that way anyway”, says Robin. 

Everything is dependent on the environment. If we don’t get that right, everything else goes out the back door, and that’s why it’s been our focus.

Robin Craig, The Jaramas Foundation

Environmental philanthropy a priority

“Everything is dependent on the environment. If we don’t get that right, everything else goes out the back door, and that’s why it’s been our focus.” 

The Jaramas Foundation support a wide range of environmental organisations, with an underlying thread of pragmatism, according to Mick.  

“It’s a bit of a range from organisations like Bush Heritage, who try to lock away land, to the Australian Conservation Foundation, which does much more advocacy. We work across that spectrum, as well is into marine conservation with the Australian Marine Conservation Society and reducing plastic waste with Boomerang Alliance. Practical solutions from respected groups is where we tend to focus.” 

Robin Craig and Mick Boyle at the top of Mt Kaputar.

The work with the Boomerang Alliance particularly stands out for Robin, especially as an example of how advocacy can be effective. 

“Their campaign [several years ago] was to introduce a container deposit scheme around Australia, which they’ve been successful in doing in all states except Victoria and Tasmania.  It was very satisfying when we supported that and then the New South Wales container deposit scheme came in, because you really notice the difference – there is just less rubbish on the streets.” 

We live very close to Homebush Bay in Sydney, near where the Olympics were, which is also home to a large mangrove swamp.

For years you would go down there and see plastic bottles thrown into the mangroves, which is something you just don’t see anymore.

Robin Craig, The Jaramas Foundation

“We live very close to Homebush Bay in Sydney, near where the Olympics were, which is also home to a large mangrove swamp. For years you would go down there and see plastic bottles thrown into the mangroves, which is something you just don’t see anymore.” 

Coming from an engineering background, as well as being business owners, Robin and Mick also like to support projects that promote technical solutions to environmental problems, as well as boosting people’s capacity through education. 

One of the foundation’s first environmental projects was to support research into creating more renewable baseload power. “We worked with Sydney University on a scholarship for people researching engineering solutions to sustainable issues.” This education focus continues to this day, with Robin and Mick being particularly excited about a project that was recently discussed at the foundation’s board meeting. 

“We’ve recently decided to support Western Sydney University and their Solar Car challenge – something a bit off to the left!” The team will build a car to compete in a 3000km race from Darwin to Adelaide, powered purely by the sun.” 

“We like the idea of supporting universities and people who are thinking about the environment. We run an engineering company, so the whole idea that the students have to design a car, build a car, figure out how to market it, get funding and then organise logistics efficiently – it’s a multifaceted approach that brings together a team, which we like a lot. We really enjoy building teams, so we’re very interested to see how that goes.” 

Robin and Mick are also looking to the future, and while for the upcoming year spending will remain stable, the foundation is looking to make important decisions in the future. 

“One thing we’ve contemplated but haven’t committed to is whether we start spending down more in the next few years. I know that quite a few AEGN members have started doing that, really focusing on the idea that it’s not worth having the money set aside for 15 years time if everything has gone pear shaped within five,” Robin says. “It’s a discussion we as a family need to have.” 

Yet Robin remains optimistic about the power of philanthropy to deal with the issues at hand.  

“When you’ve got all of those minds coming together, people are fighting the same issue on different fronts, and that’s really what it’s going to take. In an ideal world, we would have a plan, something that the whole of Australia could be working towards. But we don’t, so people are trying to do their best in their areas – and that’s the beauty of sharing ideas and strategies within the network of the AEGN.” 

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