In 2002, as the fiftieth anniversary of my arrival in Australia approached, I began to consider what philanthropic gesture I might make to the country in return for the half-century of opportunity that Australia had given me. Inspired by the tradition, so well established in America, of individuals establishing think tanks to generate and disseminate public policy proposals, my family and I settled on the idea of supporting the creation of an international policy institute in Australia.
In part this reflected my own preoccupations. My exposure to international political and business leaders and world issues had helped foster a strong interest in global affairs. I wanted my fellow Australians to better understand the myriad global forces that are increasingly shaping their lives, especially as technology has relieved the tyranny of distance under which Australia has always laboured.
The idea of establishing an institute also reflected a frustration that, despite Australia’s distinguished service on the world stage in many areas, its role was not often recognised. As I travelled the world, reading the leading international newspapers of the day, it seemed that the only references to Australia were to shark attacks, bushfires or tennis players. Establishing the Lowy Institute for International Policy was an attempt to broaden this narrative.
In this respect, the goal of the Lowy Institute was to give Australia a bigger voice on the issues that matter in global affairs. But it is also true that you are more likely to be heard if you have something new, insightful or interesting to say. Ultimately, therefore, the Lowy Institute represents an investment in ideas.