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4 min read

Meet the team: Laura Mannix, Philanthropy Lead

Profile of Nicole Richards
Written by Nicole RichardsPosted on 4/4/2023

The pursuit of social justice isn’t something Laura Mannix does for a day job – it’s an intrinsic part of who she is.

“My work is definitely informed by my lived experience as a biracial and bicultural person,” Laura explains. “Mum’s family migrated to Australia from Egypt, and I’ve always been aware of injustice, particularly around human rights.”

Laura spent more than 15 years immersed in social justice movements spanning refugee and racial justice before stepping into not-for-profit management, building projects that centre collective impact by working to decolonise structures and redistribute power.

In her previous role as Director of Community Development at DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society in Canada, Laura advised governments, philanthropic foundations and for-profit organisations on how to make their giving more accessible to the organisations and social change leaders that need that support to continue to do their vital work.

One of the things I love most about ACF is that we really are trying to transform what philanthropy looks like

“When I moved back to Australia, I knew I wanted to work on the other side of the funding fence, for an organisation that shares my values where I contribute my experience to help those on the frontlines create transformative change.

“One of the things I love most about ACF is that we really are trying to transform what philanthropy looks like and who gets to make decisions on where funding goes, while making sure those who are most affected and those who are leading the change are the ones deciding how the money will have the most impact.”

In her role as Philanthropy Lead at Australian Communities Foundation, Laura oversees all granting and collective giving activity, including the work of the Impact Fund and National Crisis Response Fund.

Laura Mannix

Image: Laura Mannix.

“My days are spent working with our donors and community partners to ensure our philanthropic activities are responsive to the work they’re doing and are contributing to a fairer, more sustainable and more equitable Australia,” she explains.

“Our community of giving is extremely thoughtful and eager to get involved with community organisations and the issues those organisations support not just through giving but through other means too.

“A lot of them want to critically engage in the issues, not just provide funding,” Laura continues.

“Our donors understand that ACF has good relationships with community organisations, advocates, and movement builders and that we have people in our team who understand the issues we’re trying to systemically change.

This referendum impacts First Nations people, and any conversations around it need to be led by, and for, First Nations people

“There is a huge opportunity for philanthropic funders in Australia to help resource movement building.”

One of the biggest opportunities for change is the upcoming referendum that asks a simple question: should Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people be recognised in the Australian Constitution through a Voice to Parliament?

For Laura, she sees this year as an opportunity to advance critical conversations around First Nations justice and self determination.

Four ways the philanthropic community can support the movement for Yes

As part of her work in ACF’s Philanthropic Services team and listening closely to our First Nations advisers, Laura offers four ways the philanthropic community can support the movement for Yes:

1. Learn about the history of First Nations activism

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart further amplified the importance of Voice, Treaty and Truth to the path towards First Nations justice and self-determination. The work of the Uluru Dialogues is a great place to start to better understand the significance of this work, while following the work of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and the Yoorrook Justice Commission can be an opportunity to see these processes begin to unfold in a tangible way. This work builds upon generations of advocacy and activism, and learning more about this history and these ongoing efforts is also really important work for those seeking to engage in this space.”

2. Have conversations informed by First Nations-led organisations

“Have conversations with friends and family about the upcoming referendum and share messaging directly from First Nations people on the issues surrounding it. Understand that this referendum impacts First Nations people, and that any conversations around it need to be led by, and for, First Nations people. Folks can be supported to have these conversations through resources developed by Passing the Message Stick, Uluru Dialogues, Yes 23 and Together, Now a national kitchen table initiative. You could look at ACF’s Resource Hub to find them all in one place.”

3. Be mindful this referendum will bring up a range of emotions

“Understand and be mindful of the emotional and cultural load being placed upon First Nations people and community as the broader Australian community seeks to better understand the upcoming referendum and its implications. This speaks to the importance of the ongoing work of unlearning colonial approaches and meaningful acts of allyship.

4. Donate to First Nations-led campaigns

Visit our Referendum Resource Hub here.