Our Foundation believes that education is one of the critical building blocks for strong and thriving communities.

I am more convinced than ever of the critical importance of education, and particularly Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It is people versed in the STEM subjects who have created vaccines in record time, mapped the progress of the virus, given us a strategy to fight COVID-19 and taken care of those who have been very ill. The pandemic has contextualised the importance of STEM.

Adapting to the pandemic and mitigating the impacts will require ingenuity and creativity. We will have to think our way to the new future. We will be reliant on our schools and universities to produce the talent necessary to achieve this.

If education matters, then the corollary is that educators matter too.

Parents doing home schooling have learnt first-hand just how tough a job teaching is.

Our teachers have shown incredible dexterity in coping with lockdowns, home schooling, restrictions back in the classroom, and then the cycle being repeated.

We acknowledge the tremendous performance of educators and thank them for their incredible efforts.

I also acknowledge the work of our Foundation partners who have remained committed to their missions and continued to find ways to support young people, now and into the future.

Finally, I want to acknowledge my colleagues on the Board who volunteer their services and have been engaged and thoughtful so that we make the most of the resources made available to us by the generosity of Origin Energy.

I particularly want to thank Prof Brenda Cherednichenko who retired from the Board due to ill health. Brenda’s contributions to our deliberations were wise, insightful, and her energy unstinting.

Joining the Board is Prof Kitty te Riele whose background as a respected education researcher will help us in our quest to support young Australians make the most of their opportunities.

“I am more convinced than ever of the critical importance of education, and particularly Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths”.

- Steve Sargent -

Hello from our Head of Foundation,
Sean Barrett

The theme of our annual review this year is Education Matters More Than Ever. This is obviously an allusion to the role of education in a post-pandemic world.

The pandemic is causing almost every organisation to question whether it is fit-for-purpose post pandemic. We know the school system has been tested and will enter a period of reflection and possible adaptation. This in turn will influence the partners we work with and support.

We too have sought to check our fitness for the challenges ahead.


Since 2013, every two years an independent, anonymous survey is conducted with our partners to give them an opportunity to provide feedback on our performance. The Australian Philanthropic Benchmark (APB) is a proxy measure of our impact: If we are not supporting our partners efficiently then they cannot provide the impact we desire.

Over the years, other foundations have sought to use the tool and so we released the IP and encouraged membership. The researcher has been able to create a benchmark. We are now able to measure our performance over time and against a benchmark.

The APB is the only such measure of philanthropy in Australia. In late 2020 we conducted another such survey.


The Net Promoter Score model is used in the research. In this round we increased our NPS to 85 and were above the benchmark of 80 (see below).

It may seem an odd reflection, but I am pleased to see we have detractors. This gives me confidence that our partners are giving honest and critical feedback without which we cannot improve.

Our Grants Program is seen as being beneficial, scoring 88 against a benchmark of 63.

Our distinctive approach to volunteering – pursuing volunteering that is meaningful rather than about metrics – is recognised as being beneficial to partners, scoring 75 against a benchmark of 45.

Meeting the needs of partners is critical and we have improved. This is a result of taking on board previous results.

Meeting partners’ needs (%)

As you can see, we are not perfect and still have work to do, but, as a charity, we believe we must be transparent.

Education is so critical to the future success of young Australians. Our partners are doing wonderful work helping those young people. Our obligation is to make sure we work efficiently to support those partners and that is our commitment.

“As a charity, we believe we must be transparent.”

- Sean Barrett-


In FY21 we distributed more than $3m to the community through our Grant, Give Time and Give2 programs, as well as in-kind donations.

Over $32m has been distributed through these programs since our inception in 2010.


Strategic giving

In times of hardship such as we have gone through in the past financial year, the role of philanthropic grant making, as opposed to charitable giving, comes into question.

There are many people and organisations in need of financial support and charitable giving has a role, which we support through our Give2 matched giving program. The Foundation matches dollar-for-dollar the charitable giving of Origin employees. The role of our Grants Program is to give with strategic purpose in mind. Catch-up learning can be used to illustrate the role of philanthropic grant making.

Recognising that school closures and home schooling would negatively impact those young people and families already living in disadvantage, we made a grant to the Grattan Institute in the previous financial year to measure the education losses and suggest a solution. The solution they suggested was tutoring, and this was advocated to all Governments.

This led, during the end of 2020, to the adoption of tutoring by the two largest States who put substantial financial commitments behind it: NSW committed $337 million, and Victoria $250 million. (Subsequently Victoria committed another $230m, and NSW further $383m. $1.2 billion has now been invested in tutoring.) Hundreds of thousands of children will benefit from these tutoring programs which are underway.

Before the commitment of these States, we made a grant to The Smith Family to carry out a tutoring pilot as a proof of concept. The results came through earlier in 2021 and were promising. The Commonwealth has now committed $3 million to extend The Smith Family tutoring program.

It is sometimes said that the Holy Grail of philanthropy is to seed fund an idea, prove it works, and then have it taken to scale by others – usually Governments.

Philanthropic grant making must also be patient. The results can take time to emerge.

But, as in this example, philanthropic grant making has its place, even in times of extremes such as we have, and are, going through.

Grants made

During the financial year we made the following grants:

  • Cool Australia – a multi-year grant to improve professional development for STEM teachers.
  • Schools Plus – we committed to another long-term grant to provide mentoring support to school leaders.
  • Grant King Indigenous Scholarships – two new undergraduates joined the program.
  • Wuyagiba Bush University – our support continues for the first cohort of undergraduates to attend Macquarie University.
  • National Indigenous Education Partnership – our seed funding continues of this exciting initiative to open schools in partnerships between community and high-performing private schools.
  • Hands On Learning – A multi-year grant to expand this successful program into Queensland.
  • Aurora Education Foundation – continuation of this multi-year school outreach program for Indigenous young people.
  • Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal’s Back-to-School Grants – The second year of support for young people in rural and regional Australia.
  • Together4Youth – a funding collaborative to encourage integration among organisations proving mentoring to school students.

Give time volunteering program

This financial year 1,512 Origin employees contributed 8,466 hours of volunteering – the second highest annual total ever recorded by our Foundation. Despite intermittent and ongoing office closures, employee participation remained strong at 33.7%, and 67% of our community partners told us they found the volunteering program “very valuable” (Australian Philanthropic Benchmark Survey, May 2021).

7,074 students at Australian schools were reached through our volunteering program this year. Around 17% of Origin’s volunteers participated in mentoring or school outreach activities designed to inspire students by connecting them emotionally with STEM as a humanitarian career, and profiling Origin STEM professionals as role models.

With guidance from our volunteers, students built solar powered lights for children living in energy poverty, assembled prosthetic hands for amputees in the developing world and built emergency water filters for African refugee camps, in partnership with SolarBuddy and Helping Hands.

Origin volunteers are providing guidance to vulnerable students through online and face to face mentoring with The Smith Family, Beacon Foundation and for the first time in 2021, the Raise Foundation.

Employees working from home gave time through virtual programs, making calls to those in social isolation through the Australian Red Cross’ COVID Connect program, and creating handcrafted blankets for remote communities in Australia and overseas, in the World Vision’s Wrap With Love initiative.

Through our skilled volunteering program, employees completed tasks involving data entry, translation, IT support and quality control. Origin’s legal team launched a pro bono program, providing ongoing support where our partners’ needs are matched to the team’s capability statement.

Whenever face to face volunteering could be undertaken safely, employees offered enthusiastic support, participating in over 160 events throughout the year. In regional areas where the pandemic risk was low, volunteers continued to provide regular support to community services such as school breakfast programs (Foodbank) and meal delivery to those in need (Meals on Wheels).


In FY21, a total of $691,678 was donated to a range of charities through our Give2 program, which matches donations made by Origin employees to any registered Australian charity of their choice.

Despite ongoing lockdowns and office closures, employees were keen to help where they could, with almost 35% of employees making donations. Almost $20,000 was donated by 156 employees to help combat the COVID-19 crisis in India, and employees also contributed to fundraisers in support of medical research, domestic violence and homelessness. Employees cooked, shaved, ran, cycled, worked out, slept out and went without to raise funds from their colleagues for the causes that matter most to them.

While our Give2 participation is lower than previous years, Origin’s matched giving places us in the top quartile of Australian companies with workplace giving programs, and at 34.9%, participation is more than double the average for organisations with more than 1,000 employees (workplacegivingaustralia.org.au).

Workplace giving awards

During FY21, Origin was again named Best Workplace to Give Back by Good Company, in recognition of our matched giving and volunteering programs, as well as Origin’s broader commitment to social responsibility.

Origin Energy Foundation received the Silver Award for Best Employer Response to a Crisis from Workplace Giving Australia, for our contribution to the bushfire response, as well as the thousands of calls made by Origin employees to those living in social isolation due to pandemic restrictions.

Special events for Origin parents

We continue to engage Origin parents and carers in our work by delivering special events on topics that relate to their children’s education. This year we developed a two-part learning series in partnership with The Smith Family on How Children Learn. The first of the series, delivered in May 2021, focused on babies through to pre-teens and explored ways that parents, carers and grandparents can support their development. For the first time, driven by lockdowns across multiple States, we ran this event virtually. More than 300 employees attended the 1.5 hour presentation, where they also had opportunity to ask questions of The Smith Family’s early childhood experts. Feedback was positive, with 92% respondents saying the session was “very valuable” to them as parents or carers, and 94% said they would recommend to their colleagues.

Thank you to our Ambassadors

Thank you to our newly formed, diverse network of Ambassadors from across the Origin business, who help who promote volunteering, workplace giving and other events, and build awareness of the Foundation’s work within their business units. They also provide us with feedback about our programs. We are grateful for the support of the following Ambassadors:

  • Allison Gwilt
  • Amanda Burton
  • Amanda Pollard
  • Andrew Beckman
  • Andrew Sung
  • Ann-Louise Lee
  • Basia Wronksi
  • Ben St Clair
  • Britt Furlanis
  • Cathy Shannon
  • Darren Bailey
  • Darryn Palmer
  • Dyllyn Tierney
  • Fiona Doherty
  • George Pearce
  • Graham Blackadder
  • Heidi Westlake
  • Janette Lam Sam
  • Jess Godfrey
  • Jim MacKenzie
  • Johnson Peh
  • Justin Lazenby
  • Kain Pollard
  • Katie Walker
  • Karina Asher
  • Kristina Matthey
  • Leroy Sigler
  • Marianne Gibbons
  • Marie Feltus
  • Maxine Thomas
  • Michelle Rajalingam
  • Najla Dedic
  • Rosy Di Mauro
  • Russell Jeffrey
  • Sabooh Whitelaw
  • Sam Seach
  • Sarah Tabuteau
  • Sheldon Moore
  • Sonya Keeble
  • Suvarna Govender
  • Su Wei Tan
  • Tayla Giddings
  • Tim Riggs
  • Tom Gay
  • Toni Dugdale
  • Vivien Shee