Interview with Mark Stockwell
As chairman of the Australian Sports Foundation, three-time Olympic medalist swimmer and noted businessman Mark Stockwell oversees what he calls Australian sport’s “best kept secret”. As the only tax-deductible organisation for sport in Australia, the Australian Sports Foundation has in the past four years gone from raising $17 million a year to $45 million over the last two years. Stockwell says the incline is timely.
“We [at the Sports Foundation] are worried about the state of sport in Australia, and particularly the lack of emphasis on sport and physical education in schools,” said Stockwell. “Everyone is time poor, and we’re becoming bigger consumers of sport as opposed to participants.
“That’s why the PMSO is critical – we’ve got a former Prime Minister talking to the community about the importance of sport for social cohesion… and to shine a light on the four key cause areas.”
Stockwell’s philosophy is that investing in sport must begin at the grassroots if it is to be effective. “Sustainability relies on investment in grassroots sporting organisations,” he said. “We want to make sure participation becomes more affordable. We have a fundamental belief at the Australian Sports Foundation, that in the longer-term, unless you get the participation piece right, you won’t get the future champions.”
As someone who has benefitted from an elite sporting career before later turning to philanthropy, Stockwell is well placed to understand the power of investing back into the community.
“Quite often we see things that we think we’d love to help with, and do something about, but to a large extent you don’t know where to start,” said Stockwell. “That’s why the Australian Sports Foundation made so much sense to me.
“My wife Tracey and I fell in love because of sport, and without it we wouldn’t have our five children. Sport changed wour lives. For us, philanthropic opportunities are about making a difference.”
Stockwell’s hope is that corporate investment in the PMSO in turn generates community buy-in; such that those most at need – or marginalised – are able to access sport’s social benefits.
“You need to get families and communities activated. Sport has always had a big part to play with new migrant communities, and giving them a social and community outlet to feel included is key.
“Parents can be encouraged to donate to their community with the tax-deduction the Australian Sports Foundation offers. That’s a huge motivation. They feel like they’re not alone; they’re giving and helping fund programs that benefit their community.”