By Brad Stave, VisionFund International - Marketing
Each year Australians crowd around their television sets waiting to see who has been named the “Australian of the Year.” Coinciding with Australia Day (January 26), Australia’s pre-eminent award is bestowed on an Australian that has made a considerable impact.
In years past this award has gone to public servants, famous celebrities, talented musicians, gifted athletes, and cure discovering scientists. This year is no different, as World Vision and VisionFund’s own Simon McKeon recently received this outstanding honour from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for his unwavering commitment and efforts to use his life to make an impact through various philanthropic efforts.
Living in Victoria, Simon is an accomplished yachtsman and has more than 25 years of investment banking experience with Macquarie Group. He also serves a number of government and philanthropic organisations, including as President of the Australian Government's Takeovers Panel and Chairman of MS Research Australia and Business for Millennium Development.
Simon plans to spend his year encouraging and inspiring as many Australians as possible to engage in their own philanthropic efforts. Simon shared, “I think the real character of Australia is found in people who are trying to make the world a better place. Everyone has something to offer, everyone has a gift they can bring.”
Having served on the World Vision Australia board from 1994-2005, Simon joined the original board of VisionFund International when it was created by World Vision as its microfinance subsidiary. Mandated to administer and lead 40 microfinance institutions in every region where World Vision works, VisionFund has grown to provide over 750,000 loans each year totalling more than $340 million dollars.
Simon reflects on his initial impressions of microfinance at World Vision, “It was in the early 90s in Thailand. I remember visiting a project, and learning that they had just begun using donated funds to launch lending initiatives amongst women. It was the first time that I was aware of the concept of microfinance, and it took me three nanoseconds to know that it was a great idea. I just knew that microfinance was going to work.”
VisionFund’s President and CEO, Scott Brown praised Mr McKeon’s contribution, “At VisionFund we are all thrilled that Simon McKeon has been awarded the high honour of ‘Australian of the Year.’ He is indeed a worthy winner, and I am thankful for Simon’s service to VisionFund as a board member. It is with the leadership, dedication, and passion from people like Simon, that VisionFund will be able to realise its ambitious goals to impact millions of additional poor entrepreneurs over the next five years.”
Simon is enthusiastic about the future at VisionFund, “My dream for VisionFund is that it will be the best possible testament of God's vision for microfinance that it can be. I envision an institution that provides millions of loans to poor entrepreneurs who want to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.”
A full article highlighting Simon McKeon and his recent honour of being named “Australian of the year” can be found online by visiting: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/top-honour-to-simon-mckeon-for-helping-the-desperate-find-hope/story-fn59niix-1225994546427