The AEGN Annual Conference: Next steps

9 May 2023

Tagged in

Thank you for being part of the AEGN’s Annual Conference and contributing to such rich conversations. Now it’s time to turn our thoughts, ideas and insights into meaningful action.  

Click on the plus symbol (+) next to each session below to reveal a list of key take-aways, resources and actions you can take to protect nature and secure a safe climate.

Day 1: Wednesday 3 May

Welcome to country and conference opening

Welcome to Country: Craig Madden
Speaker: Amanda Martin — CEO, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network

Session summary
“At the AEGN, we’re determined to grow the quantity and quality of environmental philanthropy in Australia so that it’s commensurate with the magnitude of the environmental challenges we face … We must now draw on our collective strength — intellectual, financial and social — to take our impact to the next level. Indeed, we’ve lured you here to Sydney for this very purpose, deploying one of the AEGN’s superpowers: our power to convene. To create a space for funders to share ideas, imagine, co-fund and collaborate. Ultimately, to enable you to give more, and more effectively. Our greatest superpower, of course, is you.” — Amanda Martin, from her opening address

Resources and links
The AEGN’s Strategic Plan: Giving Our All

Keynote Speaker: Dr Bruce Lourie

Dr Bruce Lourie — President, Ivey Foundation
Hayley Morris (moderator) — Executive Director, Morris Group

Session summary
How do you infiltrate an economic system to realise the environmental outcomes you seek? Dr Lourie discussed his experience within the Canadian context, where the Ivey Foundation has sought to counter the power held by “the incumbents” (the fossil fuel industry) by painting a compelling, credible vision for a sustainable, low-carbon economy through collaboration and convening. He also touched on the Ivey Foundation’s commitment to distribute its full $100 million endowment over the next five years, at a time when progress to secure a liveable planet and a prosperous decarbonised economy is urgently needed and still within reach.

Resources and links

  • Farmers for Climate Solutions — a national coalition of farmer-led and farmer-supporting organisations who believe that agriculture must be part of the solution to climate change.
  • First Nations Major Projects Coalition (Canada) — a national 130+ Indigenous nation collective working towards the enhancement of the economic well-being of its members, understanding that a strong economy is reliant upon a healthy environment supported by vibrant cultures, languages, and expressions of traditional laws.
  • Indigenous Clean Energy — Canada’s leading platform in accelerating First Nations, Inuit, and Métis participation in clean energy projects.
  • Ivey Foundation — a private charitable foundation dedicated to supporting Canada’s transition to a net-zero future.
  • Ivey Foundation’s Strategic Framework: 2020 Forward (pdf) — details the strategic thinking behind the foundation’s central funding effort, its Economy and Environment Program.
  • Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future (pdf) — In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) published Our Common Future (also known as the Brundtland Report), which developed guiding principles for sustainable development as it is generally understood today.
Keynote: Larissa Baldwin-Roberts

Larissa Baldwin-Roberts — Widjabul Wia-bul woman from the Bundjalung Nations and CEO, GetUp!
Millie Telford (moderator) — AEGN Conference Associate Curator

Session summary
Larissa Baldwin-Roberts introduced herself as a storyteller and consensus builder, reflecting on her work with Seed mob and now GetUp! in shifting narratives to better reflect and centre First Nations’ perspectives. She made a compelling case for supporting the yes campaign on the Voice to Parliament (as well as listening respectfully to the progressive “no”) and emphasised the need to make powerful values-based arguments so the reason to support the Voice is clear. She also emphasised the role philanthropy can play in helping to elevate and amplify the voices of First Nations leaders and organisations.

Calls to action

  • The Referendum on the Voice to Parliament presents a unique opportunity for reconciliation and justice for First Nations peoples, and that the yes campaign needs our support. Here’s a great summary of the ways you can get involved.
  • As philanthropists, think about the role you can play in catalysing justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Fund First Nations people and communities doing the work to achieve justice and equity; if you are already doing so, can you increase this? Think about how to influence your peers to do the same.
  • Support is for the long term — not just at this point in time. Step up your support for the Voice but consider how you can continue this longer term beyond the referendum, which is one critical step in the journey.

Resources and links

  • Passing the Message Stick — a guide to changing the story on self-determination and justice, featuring the results of a two-year research project to find messages that are effective in building public support for First Nations self-determination and justice.
  • Dr Charles Perkins Oration 2022 (ABC iView) — Larissa’s powerful oration on climate change, the referendum and the need for positive systemic change.
  • GetUp! — fighting for a fair, flourishing, and just Australia.
  • Seed Mob — Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network.
Imagine if!

Rathana Chea — CEO, Multicultural Leadership Initiative
Professor Alana Mann — University of Tasmania
Kristin Vaughan — Managing Partner, Virescent Ventures
Dr Michelle Maloney — Co-founder and National Convenor, Australian Earth Laws Alliance
Danny Kennedy — CEO, New Energy Nexus
Susheela Peres da Costa CIMA (moderator) — Founder, The Stewardship Centre

Session summary
Leading thinkers on climate justice, regenerative technologies, nature protection and economic transitions discussed what the world might look like if we achieve their visions for change.

Resources and links

Trust, humility and transparency: shifting power in practice

Millie Telford — AEGN Conference Associate Curator
Saffron Zomer — Executive Director, Australian Democracy Network
Bec Milgrom (moderator) — Executive Director, Tripple

Session summary
Committing to justice, integrity and equity are keys to achieving environmental outcomes. And acting with humility to address the power imbalance that exists between funders and those seeking funding is essential to achieving lasting change. In this practical session we learned about the importance of building strong, trusting relationships as well as holding space for grantees through all the ups and downs. And we loved Saffron’s elephant metaphor, driving home the point that we need to include multiple perspectives in order to see the bigger picture.

Resources and links

Project Showcase: 8 amazing projects and organisations for funding

Session summary
Eight power-shifting projects pitched for funding. As funders, you have the unique opportunity to help shift the dial on climate and environmental outcomes in Australia by pledging your support for these projects.

Resources and links
Follow this link to view all eight projects (you’ll need to be logged into your AEGN account to see them).

Share your funding pledge with fellow AEGN members to build momentum by emailing the Project Clearinghouse list.

One year into our new Parliament, now what?

Mark Wakeham — Australian Program Director, The Sunrise Project
Nicky Ison — Head of Direct Advocacy, Boundless Earth
Matt Kean MP — Member of the Legislative Assembly
Daisy Barham (moderator) — AEGN Environmental Program Manager (climate)

Session summary
The transition is happening! Australia has had a welcome change of federal government, opening the door to real progress on climate and nature policy. In this session, we explored what has been achieved, what needs to be achieved and what the implications are for different sectors including philanthropy. “Help governments tell the story — understand the constraints governments face and help them come up with solutions.” — Matt Kean

Resources and links

Day 2: Thursday 4 May 

Welcome and member reflection

Amanda Martin — CEO, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network

Session summary
We asked you for your thoughts on what more we could do as a network to grow effective philanthropy, and you shared some fantastic ideas on those colourful paper spots! They included to:

  • “[create] more engagement between big foundations and smaller funders via the Project Clearinghouse.”
  • “[establish] a greater presence in Western Australia – there’s so much opportunity to build the network and connect to organisations doing good work on the ground.”
  • “deepen collaborations between members, through introductions, informal giving circles and smaller targeted working groups.”
  • “widen the membership to encourage and educate people who may not currently fit the category of philanthropist but would grow into it.”
  • “offer a free introductory membership for one year.”
  • “provide 2 x First Nations Board observer opportunities – 1 looks tokenistic. Ditto for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.”

Keep your ideas coming!

A once in a generation opportunity to get our laws working for climate and nature

Graeme Samuel AC — Professor, Monash University
Rachel Walmsley — Head of Policy & Law Reform, Environmental Defenders Office
Dermot O’Gorman — CEO, WWF Australia
Lisa Cox — Environment Reporter, The Guardian

Session summary
We took a deep dive into our once-in-a-generation opportunity to get our environmental laws working for nature and climate. Graeme Samuel was optimistic, believing we’ve got a government determined to stay the course and deliver laws that are fit for purpose — despite significant pressure from vested interests. Dermot and Rachel were less convinced, but all agreed that philanthropy has a critical role to play in ensuring this absolutely remains a priority for the government, and that the national standards put in place are the strongest they can possibly be.

Calls to action
We encourage you to talk to your favourite organisations about what they’re doing to advocate for effective environmental laws and how you can help. We’ve compiled a list of great organisations we know are doing work in this area to help you get started.

Resources and links

Concurrent sessions on hot topics

Session summary
Members joined conversations on two hot topics of their choosing. Our staff listened carefully and have captured emerging themes and will be in touch with participants directly to keep the conversation going, so keep an eye on your inbox. In the meantime, here’s a top-line summary:

Rivers of the north — avoiding the mistakes of the Murray Darling Basin
The Northern Territory’s uniquely rich and free flowing river systems and their catchments will go the way of the Murray Darling basin if we do not act quickly to stem a massive expansion of cotton and other agriculture, enabled by poor regulation. A radical and innovative approach is needed — one that doesn’t just fiddle with existing laws, but that enshrines the value of rivers as ecological systems and recognises the rights of First Nation peoples. There is an urgent need for philanthropy to fund this campaign.

Shifting the system around agriculture and land use
While often seen as a problem when it comes to achieving healthy environments, agriculture can and should be viewed a solution for the climate and biodiversity crisis we face. Done right, it can be an expression of conservation, bolstering biodiversity, sequestering carbon and providing food security and economic resilience for our farmers. Philanthropy can support the many approaches and organisations working to transition to a sustainable food system, including Food Connect (shifting the farm to plate supply chain) and Soils for Life (a network of practitioners and advocates for improved soil health) who participated in the session.

Turning Just Transition into action
There’s a critical role for philanthropy to play to ensure that all community members can participate in the conversation about what is next for their community as we transition away from fossil fuels. Members are already funding great initiatives and there’s a real need for funding smaller scale, locally based organisations to do this work. The AEGN will consider hosting an online session exploring funding opportunities.

Building NGO capacity
Capacity challenges can apply across many levels, for example: the climate or conservation movement; individual NGOs; and the philanthropy sector. Ask: What do we care about? Who’s creating value in this space? What would it take to achieve the goal? Conversations and relationships underpin understanding what organisations need to deliver their mission, and the most effective and powerful role for philanthropy.

For more on the session contact:
Jim Phillipson, Founder and Strategic Director, Rendere Trust,
Jane Thomas, Program Manager, The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund,

Expanding the narrative for nature
Almost 70 per cent of Australians feel deeply connected to nature and most think the environment is a fair or good state — they don’t think there’s an issue! We need to tell stories to a variety of audiences in a variety of ways across all platforms, piggybacking on the success of climate campaigning. Climate and nature stories need to be told together (in a way that doesn’t create a polarised debate) with calls to action to give people agency.

For more on the session contact:
Basha Stasak, Nature Campaign Program Manager,
Karina Holden, Director, Northern Pictures,
Jack Pascoe, Chief Councillor, Biodiversity Council,
David Haslingden, Chair, Australian Geographic Society,

Phase out gas: Australia’s rising carbon problem
Speakers outlined the scale of the problem and mapped out the levers that philanthropy can fund to create change. There was great momentum in the session to continue the conversation online to explore what further funding is needed to stop the expansion of gas across the country. Eytan remarked that there’s such diverse work needed that there’s something for every funder to engage with.

First Nations climate justice in practice
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are disproportionately impacted by climate change, from rising sea levels and lack of fresh drinking water in the Torres Strait to declining bush tucker in desert Country and it is imperative that they are recognised and centred as the experts in climate solutions. Philanthropy has a critical role to play in supporting this by funding work to protect Country from fossil fuel developments, manage and care for lands and seas, nurture language and culture and create community led solutions.

From Colour blind to Race conscious — research on philanthropy and diversity
What is philanthropy in other communities? Does it translate and how is it understood? We must know this to help broaden the circle. How do we reach out? (“Just do it!” says Josh). What are the pathways to greater diversity? What does meaningful representation look like? More questions than answers but, as beautifully summed up by Arielle Gamble: “When we broaden the lived experience at the table, we strengthen the work. This is nation-building work.”

Project Showcase: Caring for Country: Four First Nations Organisations share their story

Session summary
The impact of First Nations-led organisations and projects on the climate and environment is profound, empowering both people and the planet. In this session four inspirational organisations, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trailblazers, shared their story.

We encourage all members to consider funding these organisations equally. Many travelled a long way from remote areas across Australia to be in Sydney to talk with AEGN members about their work.

Resources and links
Follow this link to view all four projects (you’ll need to be logged into your AEGN account to see them). And please share your funding pledge with fellow AEGN members to build momentum by emailing the Project Clearinghouse list.

Personal Power: stepping in and reaching out

Hayley Morris — Executive Director, Morris Group
Clare Ainsworth Herschell — Co-founder, Groundswell Giving
Eytan Lenko — AEGN Deputy Chair, Director of the Lenko Family Foundation and CEO of Boundless Earth

Session summary
This was a session straight from the heart, with Eytan and Clare speaking candidly and openly about their respective philanthropic journeys. We loved Clare’s five Ts — time, talent, treasure, ties and testimony — a handy framework we can all apply to our own giving. And from Eytan? He suggested if you have imposter syndrome, you’re not alone. Fake it till you make it! He assures us philanthropy is addictive once you get going.

Resources and links


Start a new thread

AEGN Annual Conference 2023

Wednesday 3 May 8.00am to 6.30pm  AEDT
Get your tickets for our 2023 conference!…

Project Showcase 2023

Focusing on climate and environment, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led projects.