Sydney philanthropist Judith Neilson launches $100m journalism fund

Australian philanthropist Judith Neilson has announced a fund commitment of at least $100 million to create a world-leading journalism institute based in Sydney.

The Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas will aim to celebrate and encourage quality journalism in Australia and the world through education and grants and by hosting lively events on the big issues of the day.

White Rabbit founder, Judith Neilson, in her Chippendale gallery
Credit: Janie Barrett

Neilson, who is also behind Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery, will be patron of the institute, but play no direct role in its management or programs.

“As an avid consumer of news, I recognise the need to support evidence-based journalism and the pursuit of truth in an increasingly complicated and confusing world,” Neilson said.

The $100m program joins the Federal government’s $48m regional and small publishers’ innovation fund and Google’s Newsroom Initiative offering up to $300,000 funding for journalism projects.

Last week The Walkley Foundation announced it will be handing out grants worth $50,000 to Australian journalists.

“I am delighted to support the establishment of this institute and I will look to experienced journalists and other experts to manage and guide its work,” Neilsen added.

“I know that traditional forms of journalism are going through massive change and Australian journalism and intellectual life needs a shot in the arm.”

“Journalism doesn’t just need critics, it needs champions – people and institutions with the resources to help educate, encourage and connect journalists and their audience in pursuit of excellence.

“Through targeted funding and education we can strengthen Australian journalism and help restore faith in its central role in a healthy democracy.”

Neilson is currently renovating a building in Inner Sydney’s Chippendale as the institute’s headquarters, which will also make it fit-for-purpose as a technology and media hub and events venue.

The institute will aim to collaborate with existing journalism schools and news organisations and act as a venue for debate about how best to report on the region, as well as on the key policy issues facing Australia.

Work has commenced on a detailed program of activities and design for the institute ahead of the its formal launch next year. A global search to identify key staff, including the founding executive director, will begin immediately.

The institute will be governed by an experienced board of directors and supported by an international advisory council.

“I want to contribute to something that makes a lasting impact and I acknowledge this will require a significant and sustained commitment,” Judith Neilson said.

“I see it very much as a national project, an initiative that will deepen our understanding of the big issues facing Australia, and contribute to a more informed discussion of them.”

While the institute will be headquartered in Sydney, it will aim to conduct many of its activities around Australia and internationally.

One of the Neilson Institute’s early priorities will be to support more reporting on Asia, and to help journalists engage more closely with their peers across the region, Neilsen said.

“Asia will increasingly be a source of breaking global news and there is a need for informed, intelligent reporting and commentary on the region.

“My hope is that this new institute can play a role in preparing Australian journalists for an exciting but more complicated and challenging future.

“I also hope that we can develop expertise here in Australia that will help journalists from around the world to better understand what will be the most important geo-political and economic region in coming decades.”


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