PGF honors Richard Pratt, A.C., as its person of the month for October 2002. Mr. Pratt came to Australia in the late 1930s as a four-year-old when his parents decided to leave their native Poland and the political uncertainty of Europe. Mr. Pratt came to the attention of PGF due to his numerous charitable activities as well as his work in advocating for multiculturalism and immigration as positive influences in the growth of nation states.
On the philanthropic front, Mr. Pratt directs his funds towards social causes, including Aboriginal health, the environment, education and social welfare. He continues a lifelong love of the arts through The Production Company, a theatre company chaired by his wife Jeanne, and through scholarships to the Victorian College of the Art Today.
On the subject of population, Mr. Pratt advocates for the need to have 50 million Australians by 2050. The fact that such a goal would require annual immigration of nearly 500,000 individuals to Australia – a view held to be politically impossible – does not deter him. Mr. Pratt has stated, “If we consider the past 50 years, our record on immigration and multiculturalism has been mostly a great and positive Australian achievement. Today, most Australians, sometimes reluctantly, have come to acknowledge that our evolution into a prosperous, cosmopolitan, pluralist society has been worthwhile. And they will also acknowledge that we have immigration, in large measure, to thank for it.”
PGF believes that Mr. Pratt deserves this recognition for his bravery in advocating for the benefits of a rich and varied society regardless of the political acceptability of the notion. Mr. Pratt’s dedication to charity, environmental friendliness and the creation of meaningful employment are shared by his family. This speaks to the importance of positive family leadership in building a global future. For all these reasons we honor him.
The following is Mr. Pratt’s biography:
Mr. Pratt is Chairman of Visy Industries, a privately owned Melbourne, Australia based manufacturing company with interests in packaging, paper making and recycling.
Following its February 2001 acquisition of the Australasian packaging assets of Southcorp Packaging, Visy employs more than 8,000 people worldwide. It has packaging and recycling interests in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and New Guinea. Group turnover is well in excess of $2.8 billion.
In 2000 and 2001 Visy Industries was named Australia’s leading company for environmental performance in the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers’ corporate reputation survey.
Born in 1934 Richard Pratt was educated at Shepparton High School, University High, and at the University of Melbourne. In 1952 he joined Visy Board Pty Ltd – the company his father founded in 1948 – and worked in sales and marketing.
In 1969 he succeeded his father as head of the company and became the dynamic force behind the expansion of the Visy group.
Under his direction the company expanded from one factory in suburban Melbourne to a network of more than 100 plants across Australia the United States, New Zealand and New Guinea.
Apart from business, Mr. Pratt’s interests range from supporting many charitable bodies throughout Australia and overseas to education, welfare and the arts. Richard’s wife Jeanne and their three children are also actively involved in business and charitable activities. Through the Pratt Foundation, the Pratt family is among Australia’s major private philanthropists.
An early interest in theatre at the University of Melbourne Repertory Theatre led to Richard Pratt acting a major role in the stage hit “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” during its London and New York Seasons.
He played Australian Rules Football with the Carlton Seconds and won the Morrish Medal for the Best and Fairest Player in 1953.
In 1985 Richard Pratt was created an officer of the Order of Australia.
He was, for a considerable time, Chairman of the Board of Management of the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria, where he helped raise funds for a new Research Centre for the Institute.
In March 1990 Mr. Pratt was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering by Monash University in recognition of his services to manufacturing.
He was a member of the Business Council of Australia and the Committee for Melbourne.
In 1992 he was Chairman of the Finance Committee of The Australian United States Coral Sea Commemorative Council, and personally raised more than $1 million to help fund the Council’s activities.
He was also a very active member of The Young Presidents’ Organisation.
In 1992 Richard Pratt took up the appointment as Foundation Chancellor of The Swinburne University of Technology, a position he held until April 2000.
In 1993 he was appointed President of The Victorian Arts Centre Trust, one of the world’s leading performing arts centres. He stepped down from this position in June 2000.
In May 1995 Richard Pratt was appointed Chairman of The Australia Foundation for Culture and Humanities, a new body created by the then Prime Minister after the launch of the “Creative Nation” cultural policy. He remains Patron of the Foundation which has been renamed the Australia Business Arts Foundation, Abaf.
In 1996 Richard Pratt through the Pratt Foundation was instrumental in raising $1 million from business and government to fund the construction of an integrated youth services centre in Dandenong, Victoria.
In September 1998 Richard Pratt was named Environmental Visionary of the Year by the Keep Australia Beautiful Campaign.
Also in 1998 Richard Pratt was awarded Australia’s highest honour, the AC (Companion of the Order of Australia).
In November 2000 Richard Pratt was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Swinburne University of Technology in recognition of his services to education and the community.
In 2001 and 2002 Richard Pratt has been pursuing an active interest in water and the challenges of better managing Australia’s water resources. He has called for a major national fund to be established to pipe Australia’s open irrigation channels, which would result in massive water savings through the elimination of evaporation and seepage.