The Australian social sector has been buzzing recently after reports surfaced that Rinehart was planning to give away half of her $14 billion fortune to charity.
The Australian newspaper has reported that Rinehart and her estranged son, John Hancock, were discussing a plan for the billionaire to give away up to half of her personal wealth to philanthropic causes as part of a settlement of their legal action over the family fortune.
But a spokesperson for Rinehart told Pro Bono Australia News that any pledge was unlikely to equal half of her fortune.
Rinehart and Hancock are currently fighting in the Federal Court over claims Rinehart wrongfully removed the multi-billion-dollar Hope Downs and Roy Hill mines from the family trust, and therefore away from her children.
Both Rinehart and Hancock have indicated that they believe a major philanthropic initiative should be a key component of the settlement.
But a Rinehart’s spokesperson said while she was eager to use her wealth to support charity, reports of half of her fortune being given away were incorrect.
“Mrs Rinehart discussed her desire to leave a significant portion of her estate for the benefit of Australian charitable causes, with a special focus on continuing existing charitable works including for northern Australia,” the spokesperson said.
“There was also the ability to continue supporting Mrs Rinehart’s existing charitable works in Asia.
“However, regrettably after agreeing to sign a confidential settlement, and advising that he would sign, John Hancock then chose not to follow through. The agreement John said he would sign remains available to be signed.”
But Australia’s philanthropic sector is already excited about the prospect of Rinehart becoming one of the country’s biggest charitable givers.
Acting CEO of Philanthropy Australia, Chris Wootton, said he was happy to learn of the planned donation and that it could be a potential “game-changer”.
“If someone like Gina Rinehart committed to give a significant portion of her fortune to charitable causes, it would be a game-changer,” Wootton said.
“And if she were willing to talk openly about her philanthropy, I have no doubt she could convince many other wealthy Australians to do the same. The culture of giving in Australia is on the up; it’s really pleasing that we’ve seen a significant rise in giving including by wealthy Australians who give while they live rather than setting up a bequest.”
Hancock reportedly said he wanted his mother to donate 50 per cent of her wealth to charity, either in her lifetime or after she dies.
“We have had discussions and we are aligned the charity should only be Australian causes with a focus on northern Australia,” Hancock told The Australian.
“I have endeavoured for years to come to a global settlement, including succession issues and how things including a charitable foundation will look in the future.”
Hancock indicated that the public philanthropy of fellow mining magnate, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, could have inspired his mother to consider becoming a mega-philanthropist herself.
Forrest and his wife Nicola became the first Australians to join the Giving Pledge, when they promised to give away $3 billion during their lifetimes.
Hancock and his sister, Bianca Rinehart, last month won a three year case against their mother to take control of a $4 billion family trust set up by their grandfather, Lang Hancock.
Rinehart is not a stranger to philanthropy.
Rinehart, and companies she chairs, already supports a number of charitable works in the health and community sector across Northern Australia and she remains the major backer of the Australian Swimming team in its quest for Olympic gold.
Rinehart started two charitable foundations, including Australia’s first breast cancer foundation, and has made a $175 million commitment to an oncology and key hole surgery hospital in Darwin.