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Gonski Foundation generously kickstarts fund to support students facing hardship during COVID-19


The Gonski Foundation has made a generous gift in support of UNSW students in need.

This act of philanthropy in support of the new Student Emergency Response Fund (SERF) is directly benefiting current UNSW students facing financial insecurity as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I feel great comfort in knowing that the Foundation’s donation has gone directly to support and elevate the next generation at this pivotal time,” says David Gonski AC, Chancellor, UNSW Sydney. 

SERF was established to support UNSW’s domestic and international students facing increasing personal pressures and financial uncertainty due to recently imposed restrictions, anxieties, and challenges within the job market. The fund represents an immediate needs-based financial lifeline during the COVID-19 crisis that guarantees the welfare of these students, and ensures they do not feel forced to drop out due to unforeseen hardship. 

In addition to the Gonski Foundation’s gift, SERF has attracted generous support from across the UNSW community, including record-high donations from the UNSW Staff Giving program less than a week from the launch of the fund. 

History of advocating for equitable education

This recent donation from the Gonski Foundation follows a pattern of giving towards the elimination of disadvantage in the education space. 

“This fund represents a much-needed lifeline for those students whom the experience of ‘isolation’ poses significant challenges and risks, and it is an initiative I feel very passionate about,” says Mr Gonski.

Over the years, the Gonski Foundation has made substantial contributions towards equity-based scholarships at the University, and Mr Gonski was an architect behind the Schools Plus Fund, launched in 2013 following the release of the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling.

Mr Gonski says a culture of philanthropy is vital to the future of a University, whether it’s to support of equitable education, critical research, or other social initiatives.

How SERF works to support students

With rural and international students prohibited from returning home, and some students having lost vital employment, many are experiencing significant anxiety and struggling to afford basic amenities. The philanthropic funding channelled to the fund will enable a variety of emergency support mechanisms for students with demonstrable need.

Students identified to be from disadvantaged backgrounds have been encouraged to apply for emergency support grants. Emergency e-vouchers redeemable at supermarkets will support students to receive essential amenities. Larger emergency grants are also available for students with more complex needs such as housing issues, disability, and carer requirements.

Mr Gonski has long been vocal that a person’s financial status should never be a determinant of academic attainment.

“I have seen firsthand – both in my family, and in my career – how life-changing a university education can be,” says Mr Gonski. “I encourage you to also consider making a contribution to this fund, to help our students at this meaningful time in their lives.”

SERF was established by UNSW as part of a two-part plan to tackle the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Consider how you can help us change the course of COVID-19