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GUIDE TO GIVING 2016


The End of an Era Xavier Smerdon


After 13 years at the Myer Family Company, Peter Winneke, the man considered by many as the father of the new wave of philanthropy in Australia, is moving on to unknown horizons.


More than a decade ago Peter Winneke realised the potential for philanthropy in Australia. That realisation inspired him to create the philanthropic services team at MFCo, formerly the Myer Family Company. Now, after 13 years, he is moving


on, and he says that Australia has still not reached its potential and is kidding itself if it thinks it has. Winneke said Australians are not


as generous as they think they are and a constant effort to change the country’s culture of giving is needed. In his last week as Head of Philanthropy


at MFCo, Winneke shared how he got into the sector, where he is likely to be going, and what inspires him to push for change.


Everyone knows you for your work in philanthropy, but how did you get into the sector?


I trained as a chartered accountant and then after Monash University I did eight


years of insolvency at Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm, doing receiverships and liquidations, where I built up what I call a healthy scepticism and what my wife calls cynicism. It feels like a former life. On reflection it was really good training


for the philanthropic sector. That, of course, wasn’t the plan at the time but when you’re doing insolvency you get told a lot of stuff which is not necessarily true. Someone says something, you listen to it and you look behind all of it and work out if it’s plausible, if it’s true and if it makes sense. It was great training for philanthropy. After eight years of insolvency I did


eight years of media acquisitions at a listed media company. So that was 16 years in the corporate world. I learned a lot, enjoyed it, but I was finding that it wasn’t meaningful enough for me. I’m very conscious that we spend a large percentage of our life at work and what I was doing wasn’t meaningful enough for me. I married late in life at the age of 39 and


prior to that I would go backpacking every winter for a month. I’d go to a different one, two or three countries every year and I saw the world, because I could, I didn’t have any dependents. Whilst I’m an optimist, most of


the countries I travelled to were developing countries and I could see that the world was in terrible shape. I was mulling this over in my head for


a number of years and when I came back from another trip I thought “too much pontification here Peter, time for some action”. I thought I needed to be in the Not for Profit space somewhere so I did a lot of research and stumbled into the philanthropic sector. I did a lot of research on the


philanthropic sector here, in the US, Canada and the UK. This is going back about 14 years now and it didn’t take long to work out that the sector in Australia is tiny. My lightbulb moment was sort of working out that there were very few people trying to drive the growth of the sector. So I had the very naive notion of, “oh let’s get into the sector and help drive its growth”. As I came to that conclusion I heard of a position as Finance Manager of the Myer Foundation. Now, I’m a chartered accountant by


training but I’ve run away from numbers all my life. I didn’t want to be a finance manager. The team at the Myer Foundation, you may be aware, also manage the grant making for the Sidney Myer Fund. The Foundation and


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