ABC Radio Interview
Marelle Thornton AM, and Geoff Hutchison ABC Radio Perth, discuss the latest
Geoff Hutchison: Now we know that charities and community groups are finding it increasingly
difficult to find much-needed donations to help carry out their work partly due to tougher
financial times, and well, the increasing commitment, the increasing amount of money that is
required for them to do the jobs they do. Well, a leading Australian community group has
found a pretty novel way to appeal for much-needed donations. It's taken out full page ads in
the Australian Financial Review directly asking rich people to give them one million dollars.
That's right, it just wants one millionaire to write out that much needed cheque so it can go
ahead and build a new centre to replace the one destroyed in a fire a few years ago. I wonder
if it'll work For more on that, I'm joined by Marelle Thornton, who is the President of the
Cerebral Palsy Alliance. A very good morning to you.
Marelle Thornton: Good morning, Geoff.
Geoff Hutchison: That's a bold piece of thinking to go to a national newspaper, no doubt read
by a few millionaires, and basically say to them, do you have what it takes to sign a cheque
this big, and the cheque is pay cerebral palsy one million dollars What kind of reaction have
you had so far, Marelle
Marelle Thornton: Well, it has certainly caught the eyes of many which it was intended to do of
course. And it has thrown out that challenge, I guess to Australians who are in a position to be
able to make a difference to others with the stroke of a pen. I think it has a struck a real chord
with those Australians who are perhaps looking for an investment in the future of others.
We've yet to have a signature on that cheque but we are very hopeful.
Geoff Hutchison: What kind of response have you had to the ad I know it's drawn people to it
but are you hopeful that you might - are you trying to prick the conscience of someone with a
lot of money, to say, listen - with one single gesture you can do so much
Marelle Thornton: It's not necessarily pricking a conscience. I think it is highlighting for
somebody the joy of giving and the challenge that giving might be - you might be able to take
on that challenge and have that wonderful sense of satisfaction that you've been able to make
a difference to the lives of so many. I think it's more to highlight that joy of giving, to highlight
the fact that governments can't do it all, charitable organisations can't do it alone but there are
people in a position who can make that difference.
Geoff Hutchison: Tell me about the fire that had such an impact on the work you do.
Marelle Thornton: Well, our entire North and East regional and state headquarters burnt to the
ground in a devastating fire one very sad Sunday evening. And we have been three years
getting ourselves steeled to rebuild, to rise from the ashes. We have been running a capital
campaign for the past 18 months but we are running one million dollars short to complete the
entire project. Of course insurance covered part of those costs but what we are building here is
a state of the art centre for kids with cerebral palsy, adults with cerebral palsy and their
families to give them the starting life that they deserve.
Geoff Hutchison: And how much money have you been able to raise so far
Marelle Thornton: Well we have raised very close to about six million dollars, but we are one
million dollars short of this wonderful centre being completed in its entirety.
Cerebral Palsy Alliance Page 1
Geoff Hutchison: Hence the advertisement, and let me just read it - the pitch - because there
is a certain pitch involved. “Do you have what it takes to sign a cheque this big, and it's a
million dollar cheque. Being wealthy means you can do lots of things that nearly everyone else
can't. Here's another thing only you could do. Write a big cheque and we mean big. You could
be a hero to so many children with cerebral palsy and single-handedly finish off an entire
building. You see, a few years ago Cerebral Palsy Alliance experienced a devastating fire which
destroyed our centre. Since then a lot of people have written a lot of cheques. These cheques
have provided six million dollars of the seven million in donations needed to help build the new
centre. That's where you come in. You can do something the rest of us can't. Write the final
cheque.” Have you been sitting by the phone
Marelle Thornton: I certainly have. I certainly have.
Geoff Hutchison: And has there been curiosity or is it the kind of thing that someone with a
million dollars to give away will just do They probably don’t want to talk about it too much. If
they were going to ring they would just ring.
Marelle Thornton: They would. I think they would, and I think you know that the highlighting
of philanthropy that has taken place over the past couple of years, and I guess led in the
States by Bill Gates and talked about by premiers and prime ministers here in Australia.
Talking about a community pulling together and those in positions as I say that few of us are
in, you know, can do this. They are able to do this and can they just pick up that pen and do it
and know that they're changing lives. Know that they're strengthening their community as a
result and experience that wonderful joy of giving. I have heard that so often from many of
our donors the joy that they feel personally in being able to give and to assist others.
Geoff Hutchison: Marelle Thornton is my guest. She's the President of the Cerebral Palsy
Alliance in Sydney. We've talked a lot, Marelle, in the last few years about the fact that a
philanthropic tradition is alive and well in the United States and has been forever. And there
has been talk in the last couple of years of a greater sign of that kind of commitment in
Australia. In Western Australian, the governor, Malcolm McCusker, has essentially been part of
a major project to encourage those who have been beneficiaries of the good life to do more.
We talk about it a lot. Are you confident that there is someone out there, or there is a business
out there, that is prepared to sign one big cheque and feel that joy of which you speak
Marelle Thornton: Well I'm a very optimistic person and I'm very passionate about people with
cerebral palsy and their families. And I'm hoping that somebody will come forward. We'd be
happy if a syndicate could get together and make that one million dollar cheque. That would
be just as fantastic because it would then give that joy and that knowledge of helping others to
so many others. So you know - look we're just very excited about the ad. We are very grateful
to The Fin Review and very grateful to Starcom Media, especially the assistance that they've
given us in getting this ad together and getting it out there. And we're just looking for that
Australian or that group of Australians that can make that difference.
Geoff Hutchison: Well we wish you well and it's a certainly a rather striking way of seeking
assistance. Thank you for talking to us today.
Marelle Thornton: Thanks Geoff, and there's a number there that anybody can ring – 1300 136
140 - and every dollar can help add up to that million dollars. Geoff, thank you for your time.
Geoff Hutchison: No worries, Marelle. Marelle Thornton from Cerebral Palsy Alliance doing what
people in that situation have to do take every opportunity to bring an issue to a wider
audience and hope that the phone is going to ring.
Cerebral Palsy Alliance Page 2