The Oaktree Foundation

The Oaktree Foundation
Oaktree Logo.jpg

The Oaktree Foundation is an Australian-based aid and development Publicly Limited Company[1] run by young people aged 16 to 26. Internationally, Oaktree partners with developing communities to support quality educational opportunities for young people. In Australia, Oaktree focuses on educating and training young people to be effective agents of change, as well as lobbying for policy change through sustained, community-driven campaigns.[2]



The Oaktree Foundation was founded in 2003 by Hugh Evans (2004 Young Australian of the Year) and Nicolas Mackay in Melbourne, Australia. Hugh Evans, had just returned from living and volunteering in the rural valley communities of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa.

Upon returning to Melbourne in early 2003, Hugh and Nic joined with other young people to establish an organization that would combat some of the inequalities that he had witnessed.[3] Since Oaktree's founding it has invested over $2.5million into its causes.[4]

Mission and size

The Oaktree Foundation’s mission is "Young People Working Together to End Global Poverty. It has three approaches to achieving its mission 1) education in developing communities, 2) high impact advocacy, and 3) training and empowering young people to create change.[5]

Oaktree has offices in every state of Australia, with over 350 staff volunteers and 98,000 supporters. Oaktree's annual turnover is currently $2.2 million.

Systemic change: campaigning and advocacy

Oaktree runs campaigns in Australia in order to encourage Australians to hold their government accountable for its policies, and lobby for policy change which satisfies Australia’s international obligations and commitments to eradicating extreme poverty.

The Oaktree Foundation has created and run several large campaigns in Australia, including:

2011: It starts at home

It Starts At Home aims to recognise the thousands of Australians who take action in their own lives to demonstrate that they care about ending poverty. It Starts At Home aims to change the way decision makers perceive the movement to end global poverty by showcasing personal stories from those within the community who continue to take part in ending it.[6]


This was the second MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY road trip. It sought to raise awareness on the Millennium Development Goals, and inspire a recommitment to those goals. By the close of the campaign, the Act to End Poverty had gained 47,091 signatures, and was later passed in federal parliament.[7]

2008: End child slavery

The End Child Slavery campaign raised awareness of the 8.4 million children who are denied an education because they are forced to work as slaves. The campaign called on coffee and chocolate companies to ensure that their products were made on slave-free production lines. In 2009, Cadbury announced that their Dairy Milk line would become Fairtrade.[8]


The first MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY Road Trip, this campaign was held to coincide with the date 07/07/07, midway point to the Millennium Development Goals. The campaign lobbied for Australia to reach its target 2015 target donating 0.7% of GNI to foreign aid. Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged 0.5% by the end of the campaign.[9]


The MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY Concert was the largest youth-run concert in Australian history. The aim of the concert was to bring extreme poverty to the consciousness of Australians. Performers included Bono, Pearl Jam, John Butler Trio, Evermore, Jet, Sarah Blasko and Paul Kelly.[10]

Development work

Overseas, the Oaktree Foundation funds sustainable educational projects run by reputable local NGOs. Oaktree’s project philosophy states “the single most powerful thing we can do for a developing community is to help provide education so that they can break free of extreme poverty.”

The projects the Oaktree Foundation funds can be categorised in the following way: learn, lead, earn and live.[4]

Learn: These projects provide communities with access to quality education.

Education in Timor Leste: In a partnership with the Stromme Foundation and Timor Children’s Foundation, three schools were constructed in the Likisa district in Timor Leste. Local teachers were trained through a scholarship program, and a Parents and Friends group formed to enable community involvement in educational decisions.

Education in Cambodia: Through funds raised in the 2010 Live Below the Line campaign, and in partnership with Beacon Schools Initiative (BSI) and Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE), Oaktree is transforming three schools in three provinces with the lowest educational indices (Kampong Cham, Kratie, and Siem Reap) into high-quality educational institutions.

Education in Papua New Guinea: Since 2007, Oaktree has been working with the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea to support the Yangis Scholarship Program, which is rebuilding the local Yangis School through teacher training, and establishing channels for community involvement in the school’s future.

Lead: These projects equip young people with vital life skills.

World Changers Academy Between 2006 and 2009, Oaktree partnered with the World Changers Academy in South Africa to deliver life skills, education and leadership programs to local youth. To enable vulnerable youth to participate in these programs, Oaktree funded a scholarship program, allowing 1400 young people to receive this valuable training and informal education.

Sethani Between 2006 and 2008, Oaktree supported Sethani, a South African community based organization located in KwaZaulu Natal. We supported Sethani to build the Ogaganeni Resource Centre. This study centre is used both for local school students, and for adult classes. It is also the administrative site for a range of services such as training in managing vegetable gardens, beadwork, sewing, cooking and basic computer skills, all of which are aimed to improve local employment and income levels.

Earn: These projects support people in extreme poverty by equipping participants with the skills needed to financially support themselves.

Ghana: In conjunction with International Needs Ghana, Oaktree has funded and facilitated the freedom, rehabilitation and training of 3, 500 Trokosi women, a severely marginalised group in Ghana. The women are trained in a range of skills including batik, tie and dye making, soap, powder, beauty cream, bread and confectionary making, and fruit juice manufacturing.

Timor Leste: The Youth Livelihoods program in Aileu, Timor Leste, is run in partnership between Oaktree and Plan Timor Leste (a subsidiary of Plan International). The vocational training program enables young people to realise their business plans.

Philippines: The establishment of a computer training centre in The Philippines is a joint venture between International Needs Australia, International Needs The Philippines, the Kabayani Youth Movement, and Oaktree. The centre offers computer literacy courses to 160 students each year.

Live: These projects promote awareness and education amongst young people in order to inspire healthier lifestyles.

South Africa: Generation of Leaders Discovered (GOLD) is a South African program which the Oaktree has been supporting since 2007. Through GOLD, young leaders are discovered and given an intensive course on HIV/AIDS. This enables them to impart this knowledge to others in their community, bringing about lasting, positive change.


Oaktree also runs educational programs which aim to transform Australians into dedicated and effective agents of change in acting on extreme poverty.


Generate is a 7 month entry program for people between the age of 18 and 26. It introduces applicants to the skills, knowledge, and leadership qualities they require to be an effective Oaktree volunteer.[11]

Schools 4 schools

Schools 4 Schools is a school partnership program launched in 2007.[12] It aims to create sustainable partnerships between schools in Australia and schools in either South Africa or Cambodia. It does this through utilising online community, inter-cultural exchange opportunities, and interactive modules being taught in schools in both Australia and the developing world.

Schools 4 Schools runs in over 150 secondary schools nationwide, across 6 states and territories.[13]

Live below the line

Live Below the Line is a 5-day extreme poverty awareness and fundraising campaign that facilitates members of the general public in Australia to develop a better understand the daily challenges faced by the 1.4 billion trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty.

For each of the five days of the campaign the participants spend on food the equivalent of the extreme poverty line - US$1.25 (this translates through to A$2). The participants use their daily experiences to bring extreme poverty to the centre of conversation in homes around Australia.[14]

Chief executive officers

  • 2009–present: Tom O'Connor
  • 2008-2009: David Toovey
  • 2003-2008: Hugh Evans

See also


External links

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