Article by Bethany Hiatt courtesy of the West Australian.
Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, is also one of its most generous — though few would know it.
The mining magnate is one of just 25 people in the country to be appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the general division.
According to her citation, she has been recognised for “distinguished service to the mining sector, to the community through philanthropic initiatives and to sport as a patron”.
Mrs Rinehart, the only child of WA iron ore magnate Lang Hancock, became executive chair of Hancock Prospecting in 1992 and transformed the group from one in financial difficulties to one of Australia’s most successful private mining companies.
Notoriously private, Mrs Rinehart would not comment on what the Australia Day honour meant to her personally.
But businessman Ron Manners, who has known her since she was 16, says it is well deserved.
“She does a lot more than anyone realises,” he says. “Not only in WA, but Australia-wide and even overseas, she’s a great one for supporting anything that she can see the results from.”
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is one of her key beneficiaries, with Mrs Rinehart helping the organisation to buy aircraft and prepare for the COVID pandemic.
For many years, Mrs Rinehart has also poured part of her fortune into sponsoring four Olympic sports: swimming, rowing, volleyball and synchronised swimming.
The Dolphins swim team had its best ever performance at the Tokyo Olympics, picking up 19 medals in the pool including eight golds.
Rowing Australia president and Wesfarmers chief executive Rob Scott says the support of Hancock Prospecting and Mrs Rinehart had been “transformational” for the sport.
“What she has done since the Rio Olympics is provide sponsorship which flows directly to our high-performance athletes, and that money helps pay living expenses that enables them to commit to the training and competition schedule that’s necessary to be successful,” he says.
“That was really vindicated at the Olympics, where the team won two gold medals and two bronze medals.”
“Without her support, Australia would not have been as successful as it was at the recent Olympic games.”
Mr Scott believes the desire to see Australians achieve success on the world stage is an important driver for Mrs Rinehart, who also recognises the hard work and discipline it takes for elite athletes to get there.
“What I respect about Mrs Rinehart is the money she puts into sport, she demands that it goes directly to the athletes,” he says. “She has no tolerance for it being caught up in administration.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook, who has worked extensively with Mrs Rinehart, says the one thing that has always shone out is that she never trumpeted the good works she did.
“Breast cancer is one,” he says. “There are a number of trucks up at (mine site) Roy Hill that are painted pink, and each one carries the name of one of the ladies up there that has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s been incredibly supportive of breast cancer and a whole lot of other things.
“Her philanthropy is not that public, but it’s always there.”