Canberra businessman Greg Boorer has taken the reins as the new chair of the Hands Across Canberra (HAC) board as Di Kargas Bray steps down from her role.
Founder and now CEO of the Canberra Data Centre, chair of the ACT Cricket board and long-term chair of the Australian Information Industry Association, Mr Boorer has been a director of Hands Across Canberra for three years.
Ms Bray, former Canberra Citizen of the Year, was the inaugural chair of the organisation which fundraises for hundreds of individual Canberra charities. HAC also manages the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund, established in 2018 to assist in meeting the social, economic, cultural, educational, environmental and other charitable needs of the ACT community.
“Hands Across Canberra and the Chief Minister’s Fund have been the love of my life,” Ms Bray told an end of year function sponsored by the John James Foundation, with whom HAC often collaborates.
“It was perfect timing to go because we’re in such a great space. We’ve thrived through COVID, through the pandemic, through all of the natural disasters we’ve had, because we’ve been able to focus on the need in Canberra. So the timing was good.
“I think Canberrans have noticed they have neighbours and those neighbours have needs, and they’ve stepped up. The challenge is to keep them stepping up and being part of the community.”
HAC was inspired almost 14 years ago by a series of conversations about philanthropy and how to best leverage Canberrans’ combined giving power in a well-heeled but relatively small community where many small charities did important work but could struggle with funding.
Ms Bray said community was always at the core of the conversation.
“I ask people ‘Have you got a rug at home?’ We say Canberra is a beautiful place. But when you go home, lift up the rug and just have a look what’s underneath. There’ll be stuff we hide, and we’ve got to stop hiding it under the rug.
“Canberrans had an expectation in the past that government would sort everything out. But as citizens, we live and breathe this place and it’s been good to most of us. It’s our responsibility to give back and to give where you live.
“Keeping the money here, or a good proportion of the money here, is going to help your neighbour, your friend, your partner, somebody you know.”
Ms Bray intends to stay involved in the background, talking to businesses and Canberrans who have the opportunity to give back. She’ll focus on homelessness, disability and domestic violence as her key causes.
“My highlights have been claiming Canberra Day every year for fundraising, to reflect on what you have and what others don’t have. That will grow and one day bring in $10 million and I hope I’m around to see it.
“The second is to have a Chief Minister who could see we could do more with money and take a risk. My dream is he’ll top that fund up, and the Chief Minister’s Fund becomes perpetual like the Lord Mayor’s charitable fund in Melbourne.
“We do all this with such a tiny team, and that’s only possible because we collaborate. The John Jones Foundation, the Snow Foundation, Aspen Medical, and eventually our sub-fund donors are making Canberra just the most amazing and generous place to live.”
You can donate to Hands Across Canberra here.