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Community Fundraising: The head and the heart


One of the most exciting things about philanthropy is how it can unite many people under a shared cause.

Each year UNSW is inspired by the giving spirit that is embodied by its community, which every year sees many individuals coming together to give money, time and effort towards a cause they are passionate about.

With more than 50,000 students, 300,000 alumni, and a wealth of other generous supporters, UNSW is incredibly lucky to have the backing of an inspiring community. This year, there has been considerable drive behind fundraising for brain health, from events supporting people living with debilitating conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, to igniting essential research into preventing and treating brain cancer.

In 2018 alone, these groups have utilised crowdfunding platforms to reach thousands of donors, and collectively raised more than $450,000 in support of Professor McDonald’s research.

A common cause to fight brain cancer

Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald, based at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, leads the Cure Brain Cancer Neuro-oncology Group. As one of the most devastating, and often lethal forms of cancer, Professor McDonald’s work aims to develop cutting-edge treatments for the 1,700 Australians who are diagnosed every year. Her research seeks to achieve a better understanding of why brain cancer occurs, and how its treatment and prevention can be improved.

Professor McDonald’s work is supported by three different and passionate groups in the UNSW community. This includes Love for Lachie, established in memory of 10-year-old Lachie Muldoon, who passed away in 2015 from an aggressive form of brain cancer; as well as the Olle Fund for Brain Cancer Research, in recognition of former radio and television presenter Andrew Olle who died in 1995 from an undiagnosed brain tumour. The third group is the Higher Thinking Brain Cancer Research Fund, established in 2011 by cancer survivor Shalom Andrews and her husband Dave Taylor to support research into the area of living with low-grade brain tumours.

In 2018 alone, these groups have utilised crowdfunding platforms to reach thousands of donors, and collectively raised more than $450,000 in support of Professor McDonald’s research. This has enabled further clinical trials to identify biomarkers that pinpoint the efficiency of different treatments. Professor McDonald practices a “bench-to-bedside” method in her research, bringing her work to life to make a difference in the lives of those living with brain cancer right now.

Wiping out dementia one wave at a time

The Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW is conducting critical research into the treatment and prevention of age-related brain disorders, in particular Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Their work seeks to determine the pathways of normal and abnormal brain ageing, identify risk factors for and protective factors against abnormal brain ageing, and conduct new treatment and early intervention trials. This work is made possible in large part due to the support of their amazing community that is equally passionate about stopping this disease.

Each year CHeBA hosts two corporate Wipeout Dementia surfing events, each aiming to raise $75,000 towards research to tackle dementia. Now in its third year, the

May 2018 event was held on Queenscliff Beach with supporters such as former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Colliers International joining in the fun, and smashing the fundraising target to bring in $86,000 for CHeBA’s vital research. Since 2015, Wipeout Dementia has collectively raised more than $600,000 as well as attracting many additional corporate donations, all of which has gone directly towards CHeBA’s work in exploring dementias.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and a diagnosis poses a great financial and emotional burden not only for the person receiving that diagnosis, but also their friends, families and carers.

One to watch out for…. Bugisu Project

Though not yet having launched its crowdfunding campaign, this inspiring venture has already gained a number of supporters who are passionate about its cause. Led entirely by UNSW students, Bugisu Project proves that it’s never too early to start giving back. While on a study visit to Gulu University in northern Uganda in 2017, fifth-year engineering students Brody Smith and Darcy Small spent time working alongside local students and subsistence farmers, learning of the key challenges they face around social inequity and environmental degradation.

Having also learned that some of the world's best coffee grows on an extinct volcano not far from one of the local student’s home towns, Brody and Darcy saw an opportunity to support local and community driven initiatives through a new ethical business model. Knowing Sydney’s love of coffee, and the shifting consumer interest towards ethical goods, the pair launched their own zero-waste coffee venture which today is known as Bugisu.

The project supplies ethically-and transparently sourced coffee from Ugandan farmers to Australian businesses, with all profits reinvested back into charities and NGOs in Uganda that support gender equality initiatives and environmental conservation. Brody and Darcy have begun to sell their coffee to Sydney companies, and they are now preparing to launch a crowd-funding campaign to expand.

To learn more about this wonderful initiative, visit