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Spreading the word, making the case, and seeking to inform and inspire the donor community about the importance of supporting and investing in women and girls. Here, we discover what the Australian Women Donors Network is all about…

The Vision

A world where women and girls are seen, heard and valued.

Who, What, Where

The Australian Women Donors Network (‘Women Donors’) actively spreads the word, makes the case, and seeks to inform and inspire the donor community about the importance of supporting and investing in women and girls. A not for profit advocacy group, Women Donors has strong links to Australia’s leading women’s funds, including the Victorian Women’s Trust, the Sydney Women’s Fund, and the International Women’s Development Agency. The Network believes that by driving funding to projects designed to maximise the potential of women, and alleviate existing disadvantage, then society as a whole will benefit.  

Australian Women Donors Network

Early Days

Women Donors was founded in 2009 by lifelong women’s advocate Eve Mahlab AO, and respected philanthropist Jill Reichstein OAM. Leading businesswoman and women’s advocate, Carol Schwartz, through the Trawalla Foundation also provided invaluable support. Principal Partners ANZ Private and Trustees, and the Pratt Foundation along with Trawalla, provided the crucial sponsorship to establish the organisation.

Inspiring Change

Although still a relatively new organisation, Women Donors has a proud record of bringing powerful international speakers to Australia to inspire and promote the message for women and girls. Most recently, renowned US philanthropist Abigail E. Disney won the hearts and minds of hundreds of men and women in Melbourne and Sydney on a speaking tour for Women Donors. This included a series of Philanthropy Masterclasses.

As a lifelong philanthropist and founder of the New York based Daphne Foundation, Abigail spoke passionately about the important role women play in communities and why it’s vital to support them to have a voice.


… when you educate a woman or invest in her empowerment, there are many flow on benefits to her immediate family and community.

Why Women and Girls?

“There is overwhelming evidence – and it is now widely accepted – that investing in women and girls produces a multiplier effect,” says Women Donors Chief Executive Officer Julie Reilly. For example, when you educate a woman or invest in her empowerment, there are many flow on benefits to her immediate family and community. Reports by leading international organisations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and Goldman Sachs, all underline the economic imperatives for bridging the gender gap and the opportunities this brings for increased prosperity.

The Community

Women Donors has a diverse, influential community of supporters from philanthropy, business, government and the community sector. Right now, its numbers are greater in Melbourne and Sydney, however the Network is steadily growing its supporter base around the nation. Says Julie, “Our challenge now is to ensure we are a sustainable force, and that we are appropriately resourced to continue driving the momentum for women and girls. We know this is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do – and will bring benefits for all.”

Growing Giving Circles

In the near future, Women Donors intends to strengthen its focus on the concept of Giving Circles, where groups of like- minded individuals can pool their resources to provide a substantial investment to a chosen philanthropic initiative.

Opportunity for Australians

Says Julie, “Australians can be rightly proud that, in the event of a crisis, the broad community responds with generous donations and heartfelt support. Sadly, however, it is equally true that we do not as a nation have a strong culture or tradition of philanthropy. There are many historic and cultural reasons for this, however it is increasingly evident that we have compelling reasons to change.”


One of the issues facing the philanthropic sector in general is a lack of available data. So Women Donors recently commissioned research by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at Queensland University of Technology. Commissioning this groundbreaking research was the first step on the path to building a reliable evidence base from which to work. The inaugural research report – Mapping Australia’s Philanthropic Investment in Women and Girls – has provided the first insight into how funds are allocated, why women and girls may or may not be a focus for giving, and what it is that needs to happen to change the existing funding ratios and outcomes.

Get Involved

Anyone – women and men – interested in supporting the work of the Australian Women Donors Network can register on the website to receive regular communications about events and other opportunities to connect with its community.

Visit Australian Women Donors Network

First published May 2012.

Rosemary McKenzie

Rosemary McKenzie

Rosemary McKenzie is Co-Publisher and Co-Founder of Samara Magazine. A seasoned businesswoman, she is also Director of successful mortgage broking business, Melbourne Mortgage Solutions.
Rosemary McKenzie