Westpac Foundation

The Westpac Foundation supports The Helmsman Project, a coaching and experiential learning program for students in communities affected by disadvantage.

With the aim to help families of deceased bank employees who found themselves in financial hardship, in 1879 Thomas Buckland, then Director of Westpac’s predecessor, the Bank of New South Wales, donated his £1,000 annual income to establish the Buckland Fund, which later became Westpac Foundation.

In 1999, the scope of Westpac Foundation expanded beyond supporting its long-serving retired employees and their families to making a meaningful contribution to the wider Australian community through grants to nonprofits.

In 2011, Westpac Group donated $20 million to Westpac Foundation, which continues to fund a significant proportion of the organisation’s grants and gives it the ability to grow its social impact via its community partners.

While being independent, the Foundation considers Westpac Group to be its greatest supporter. In 2016, Westpac Foundation awarded $1.3 million in grants, with $988,161 raised by employees, shareholders, suppliers and customers.

Lise Taylor spoke with CEO Sinclair Taylor about the Foundation and its future.


We are proud that 137 years on, Westpac Foundation still encompasses the spirit, generosity and philanthropic intent of our founder, Thomas Buckland. Today, Westpac Foundation carries out its aims by tapping into the generosity, time and skills of Westpac Group’s employees to support the organisations and social entrepreneurs that are ensuring no-one is left behind in the Australian community.

Since 1999, Westpac Foundation has granted more than $30 million to over 450 nonprofits and remains steadfast in its goal to help create a fairer, more inclusive Australia for individuals experiencing disadvantage.

Today, Westpac Foundation continues to support social enterprises and local grassroots organisations that are taking a fresh approach to addressing complex social problems, borrowing the best from business and the social sector to create more opportunity for Australia’s most disadvantaged. We have two major, external, grant programs:

Community grants Grants of $10,000 each are awarded to local grassroots organisations that are helping address social and economic disadvantage in Australian communities.

Social Scale-up Grants Grants of $300,000, over three years, are awarded to not-for-profit social enterprises that are creating jobs and employment opportunities for Australians who need them most.

Westpac Foundation

Toowoomba Clubhouse supports adults with mental illness, providing a restorative environment for members who need the support and belief of others to assist them in their recovery.


In 2016, Westpac Foundation awarded $1.3 million in grants to 104 organisations. This included collective impact, financial hardship, social enterprise and community grants. In 2017 we will make $3.5 million of grant commitments.

To celebrate Westpac’s 200th year, in 2017 Westpac Foundation will be awarding 200 community grants worth $2 million to local, grassroots community organisations focused on a fairer and more inclusive Australia. Applications have now closed and the grants were announced on 18 September 2017.

The grants are worth $10,000 each and include non-financial support via our More than Money program, which utilises the skills and expertise of Westpac Group employees. We will also provide $1.5 million in grant commitments to five social enterprises through our Social Scale-up Grants program. Applications have now closed and the grants will be announced in November 2017.


Westpac Foundation has actively supported Australian social enterprises for over a decade. Social enterprises are in a unique position to help our communities prosper and grow by helping to improve the lives of people who need it most, such as those experiencing homelessness, family violence or long-term unemployment.

Westpac Foundation was one of the first philanthropic organisations in Australia to develop a grant program specifically to support social enterprises. It recognises that unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, has a significant negative impact on the lives of people who are experiencing disadvantage. Those out of work for a long period of time are more likely than others to become socially isolated and suffer mental and physical illnesses.

We also recognise the significant role played by many social entrepreneurs who are tackling this complex issue by creating job opportunities for people who have been out of work for a long time or who have never had a job before. These social enterprises provide training, development and ongoing support for their staff or trainees by reinvesting the profits from selling their products and services. Thanks to their efforts, thousands of individuals have been given a chance to live more meaningful lives.

Given the success of these models, Westpac Foundation has refined its social enterprise focus to work exclusively with employment-generating social enterprises that create more opportunities for people who face significant barriers to enter the mainstream job market.

We target our funding to help people gain education, qualifications and access to the workforce. These people include Indigenous Australians, refugees and asylum seekers, individuals living with a disability, people experiencing mental health issues, people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, young people and women at risk, including those who have experienced domestic or
family violence.


Our More than Money program fosters local connections and skilled volunteering opportunities between Westpac Group employees across a variety of job roles – such as branch staff, business bankers, finance, marketing and HR – and the community organisations to which we provide funding. This employee commitment brings to life Westpac’s vision of ‘helping our communities to prosper and grow’ in a very tangible way.

Through this program, we matched all 100 Community Grant recipients from 2016 with non-financial support from Westpac Group employees, who acted as Community Grant Ambassadors. Our Community Grant Ambassadors supported our grantees by providing their skills and expertise, as well as leveraging their local and regional networks to promote their organisation’s work and support their fundraising efforts. In 2017, we will match all 200 Community Grant recipients with 200 Community Grant Ambassadors.


Since 2015, the 20 social enterprises supported by Westpac Foundation have been collecting data on the number of jobs and employment pathways they have helped create.

Collectively, they have reached nearly 3,000 individuals via their traineeships, work experience and upskilling programs, providing critically needed ‘economic participation’ opportunities to Australians who face significant barriers to gaining employment. More than 830 people have been able to get a casual, part-time or full-time job because of their engagement with these social enterprises, including over 500 gaining employment directly with the social enterprise, 200 obtaining work with another organisation and 60 finding self-employment work.

Here are just two examples of the 100 Community Grant recipients from 2016. In 2017, to celebrate Westpac’s 200th year, Westpac Foundation will be awarding 200 Community Grants to organisations just like these:

Westpac Foundation

Puddle Jumpers believe that all kids matter and deserve the right to engage in happy and fun experiences.

Puddle Jumpers This South Australian nonprofit is committed to responding to the social development needs of society’s most vulnerable children and young people. It provides opportunities and support for children and families at risk through holidays and recreational activities. Programs are designed to empower young people to develop social, communication, co-operation, team building, conflict management and problem solving skills, as well as self-esteem. In 2016, it received $10,000 from Westpac Foundation.

The Helmsman Project Based in New South Wales, The Helmsman Project is an innovative coaching program designed to equip young, disadvantaged people with the psychological skills and broadened perspective necessary to set meaningful goals, overcome setbacks and persevere in the pursuit of their dreams.

This innovative program, which the Foundation supported with $10,000 in 2016, combines coaching and practical learning experiences. The program draws upon evidence from developmental and coaching psychology, and aims to support young people to develop life skills – in particular, hope, self-regulation and resilience – so they can make better decisions for their education and life.

And the social scale-up grants?

Westpac Foundation

Bama Services is a leading Indigenous building and landscape business in far north Queensland.

Toowoomba Clubhouse Based in regional Queensland, this social enterprise has over 900 members who have experienced mental illness and struggle to find work. Its programs provide opportunities to access employment, education, housing and other support. Over the past three years it has assisted more than 150 individuals back to employment. More than half had not been employed for 10 years or more.

Westpac Foundation granted Toowoomba Clubhouse $100,000 in 2015 to assist in the establishment of its flagship social enterprise, a commercial laundry called Vanguard Laundry Services, which opened at the end of 2016. The Clubhouse also received a Westpac equipment finance loan of $1.5 million to fit out the laundry.

Westpac Foundation’s relationship with Toowoomba Clubhouse is longstanding and multi-faceted, since it first awarded it a $10,000 Community Grant in 2013. Toowoomba Clubhouse has also accessed the skills of Westpac Group employees through Westpac Foundation’s More than Money program.

Bama Services An Indigenous owned social enterprise based in Cairns, Qld, Bama Services began life in 2010 as a small construction and landscaping business designed to provide a ‘transition to work’ pathway for young Indigenous school leavers. Since then, it has rapidly expanded into a multi-faceted enterprise providing civil and domestic construction, facilities and asset maintenance as well as landscaping and environmental services.

Bama now employs 50 people, of whom around 80% are Indigenous. The social enterprise has a holistic approach to supporting its staff and offers an in-depth wellbeing support program, training and peer-to-peer support, as well as practical assistance to help staff members achieve their financial goals. Its 2016 $300,000 Social Scale-up Grant will provide support to Bama Services as it grows from a small- to medium-size construction business over the next three years.

For details visit westpacfoundation.org.au or subscribe to the Westpac Foundation newsletter by emailing westpacfoundation@westpac.com.au.