12 April 2024

Genevieve Jacobs to lead Hands Across Canberra amid growing need in capital

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Peter Gordon and Genevieve Jacobs

Peter Gordon and Genevieve Jacobs: Hands Across Canberra faces challenges in difficult times for the capital’s less well-off. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Prominent ACT media figure Genevieve Jacobs will take the helm of charity group Hands Across Canberra on the retirement of current CEO Peter Gordon at the end of the month.

The founding Region Group Editor and former ABC presenter will take over at a pivotal point in the independent foundation’s history. Founded in 2010 by a group of Canberra leaders who wanted to give back to the community, it now works with more than 250 local community organisations.

Mr Gordon said Ms Jacobs, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her services to broadcasting and the community, was the ideal person to take the foundation to a new level in a growing climate of need in Canberra.

“She’s younger, smarter and more hungry than I am,” he said.

“She’s got networks that I don’t have, she’s got communication abilities that most people don’t have, and she’s got a willingness to roll the sleeves up and get the job done.”

READ ALSO DoNOHarm at work – how to care for others and avoid burnout

Mr Gordon said that while Hands Across Canberra had established a solid platform, the combination of growing need in the community and donation fatigue, both results of the cost-of-living crisis, meant the foundation had its work cut out to convince Canberrans, businesses and the bigger multinationals operating here to give more.

He said contributions to the foundation’s major fundraising campaign, the Canberra Appeal, fell last year after rising 20 per cent for each of the previous five years.

“We had better systems, better support from media, better support from business, and yet we raised 20 per cent less.”

At the same time, demand for street pantries in the past 12 months had gone up between 50 and 80 per cent, and there were 2000 homeless nightly and more children in need, especially in the outer suburbs.

“That’s real people, probably many of whom have got jobs, needing the support of subsidised or free food to just let them get by,” Mr Gordon said.

“That’s the sort of invisible work we do, and no one really knows that. But until we tell that story and tell it to more people and get people to look out the window and say, ‘Gee, I’m OK, but what have I done in my community lately?’ I think that the ability for that to turn around is really problematic because we’ve got to talk to 500,000 people and ask them whether they care or not.”

Mr Gordon said Canberra was a privileged city and people were generous, but Hands Across Canberra’s and Ms Jacobs’ role would be to convince them to keep a bit more of that generosity in Canberra.

“If we change how Canberrans thought about local generosity, we don’t need them to donate more to charity. We just need them to donate more to local charities,” he said.

He said businesses, especially some of the bigger firms in town, could contribute more.

The construction industry was very generous, but other sectors, such as the IT and defence sectors, could do more to leave a legacy in the city.

Ms Jacobs said building community was also at the heart of her work in the media and elsewhere.

“As a journalist throughout my career, it’s never been about the gotcha moments for me, but always about how we can make the community stronger, more robust, better informed and more cohesive,” she said.

“Going to Hands Across Canberra gives me the opportunity to build on those foundations and to extend those across some of the most vulnerable parts of our community, building Hands Across Canberra’s identity and profile, building on firm foundations for them, and building community by giving everyone a fair go, the best chance they can.”

Ms Jacobs said Region had always had a community focus, evidenced by its 2023 national Telstra Best of Business Award for building community, and Hands Across Canberra was a major community partner, so that alignment was already there.

She said she was leaving the company in excellent shape after six years in the Group Editor role.

“I’m immensely proud of what we’ve established,” she said.

“We’ve gone from being a familiar little news site to something that is now a major player in the Canberra media world. It’s trusted, it’s balanced, it’s informed.

“It’s something that people turn to as their first news source. I feel incredibly proud of the team that we’ve built and I’m deeply sad about leaving it.

“We’ve demonstrated that you can build robust, independent media and that it can be financially sustainable. I look forward to continuing to work with Region as part of the Canberra media landscape.”

READ ALSO Why a Yass family won’t let the death of their daughter be in vain

Mr Gordon said leading Hands Across Canberra had been a career-defining opportunity and incredibly rewarding.

“Over the past 12 years, we have generated over $20 million, which has all stayed in our community for the benefit of the citizens of our city who need our help the most,” he said.

Mr Gordon paid tribute to the part played by the ACT Government, especially Chief Minister Andrew Barr, in creating a stable and effective foundation.

“Working with the government to create the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund leaves a permanent legacy for our community,” he said.

Mr Gordon also thanked the supporters of the foundation, the many businesses and individuals who contribute time, treasure and talent, and the board of directors, especially the three chairs, Alan Williams AM, Diane Bray AM and Greg Boorer.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
HiddenDragon7:54 pm 14 Apr 24

“At the same time, demand for street pantries in the past 12 months had gone up between 50 and 80 per cent, and there were 2000 homeless nightly and more children in need, especially in the outer suburbs.”

In the six months until the ACT election Genevieve’s soon-to-be-former colleagues at Region should do all they can to highlight the grim reality reflected in those statistics and press all candidates to be as clear as possible about what practical steps they would take to deal with poverty in our community.

Great choice and sad loss.

Hoot Hoot Genevieve!

Tony Mansfield1:43 pm 12 Apr 24

I will miss your frank approach and willingness to tell the truth in our public domain though!!

Tony Mansfield1:41 pm 12 Apr 24

Congratulations, this next step seems very natural and progressive for you, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the new challenges and appreciate perhaps a little less time in the spotlight!!

Congratulations Genevieve. You are an amazing individual. Best of luck with this next big job!

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.