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Andrew Forrest, WA

Australian of the Year Awards 2017

Andrew Forrest

Philanthropist and anti-slavery advocate

2017 Australian of the Year for Western Australia

Andrew Forrest

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest is a philanthropist who has pledged to give away the overwhelming majority of his wealth, and who leads around 250 Australian initiatives aimed at strengthening communities. Undaunted by the scale of his challenge, Andrew directs his relentless energy towards helping society’s most vulnerable citizens, in Australia and throughout the world.

Book of Declarations and ‘Freedom’ brick

Never one to just sit around waiting for things to happen, Andrew Forrest identifies some of the world’s most urgent challenges and then tackles them head on. These two very different objects reflect the work that Andrew is undertaking with organisations, communities, governments and religious leaders to eradicate modern slavery.

This Book of Declarations is the only document to contain the signatures of the world’s major faith leaders, who have pledged to work together to end modern slavery. The brick was produced at what was once an enslaved community operating a brick kiln for a slave master in India. The community gave the brick to Andrew as a symbol of their freedom.

A cream coloured hard-covered book and a red-brown clay brick.
Book of Declarations and 'Freedom' brick, on loan from Andrew Forrest.

Bringing people together

'On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December 2014, faith leaders from across the world came together and pledged an end to modern slavery. Under the banner of the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Freedom Network, His Holiness the Pope, the most senior Zen Buddhist master, the Grand Ayatollah of the Al-Azhar Sunni faith and the Grand Ayatollah of the Shiite Islamic faith, the Archbishop of Canterbury, South America’s and Israel’s leading rabbis took part in a powerfully historic event to sign the Book of Declarations.'

Just the beginning

'Our 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are trapped in some form of modern slavery, where individuals have lost their rights and freedoms. The Book of Declarations marks the beginning of a process, a pledge to action, now underway around the world. This book will eventually also hold signatures of global political and business leaders as the machinery of modern slavery is dismantled and comes to a grinding halt.'

‘Freedom’ brick

‘I was given this brick at an Indian village, by people who now run their own brick kiln. The ‘X’ means freedom and represents the opportunity to be independent, the chance to be free, and the vision of a brighter future. The great-grandfather who presented the brick to me wept as he described how he once believed he would never see the day when his children and grandchildren would not have to suffer the horrific indignities that he and his family once had.’

Note: The 'freedom brick' was on show at the National Museum in Canberra but was too fragile to tour.


This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images courtesy National Australia Day Council.