When I was a kid, staying up late and watching Telethon was an annual tradition, as was donating a few dollars and promising to double it if someone read it out on TV.
I never managed to get my donation read out, but I’ve decided we’re all square after re-elected Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas gave this column a shout-out at the Telethon Ball on Saturday night.
In all seriousness, I still think Telethon is special – a beacon in a country not known for its philanthropy. Despite having one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, Australia’s philanthropic giving amounts to only 0.81 per cent of GDP, according to Philanthropy Australia, compared to 2.1 per cent in the United States. Even the Kiwis do better, giving 1.84 per cent of GDP.
One of the unique features of giving at Telethon, is that contributions range from a few dollars of saved pocket money from kids in the suburbs and regions, through to millions of dollars from government, high-net-worth individuals and companies, with many of these corporate contributions coming on top of their business-as-usual community investment programs, too.
Telethon is a Team WA moment that recognises that, despite our relative wealth, excellent public services and social safety net, there is still plenty of need in the community. And action we can take, collectively and as individuals, to address it.
It’s a tradition that all of us, as West Australians, can be proud of.