Daughter and attorney of Judith Neilson join institute board after trustees resign in protest | Australian media


The Judith Neilson Institute has named the billionaire philanthropist’s lawyer and daughter to the board as Neilson cements her control over the $100 million in journalism support she pledged in 2018.

The two new directors — daughter Beau Neilson, creative director of Phoenix Central Park, and attorney Daniel Appleby, director of the Judith Neilson Head Trust — were named at a meeting of the JNI board of directors on Thursday.

The two Neilson allies replace the four independent administrators who resigned en masse in protest against the patron’s plans to change the direction of the institute.

The directors who resigned were former New South Wales Chief Justice James Spigelman, Australian editor Paul Kelly, Free TV chief Bridget Fair and former state chief executive. Library of Victoria Kate Torney.

Under the leadership of JNI Executive Director Mark Ryan, the institute distributed $2.5 million in grants to everyone from mainstream media to community groups, and hosted a series of events and educational programs.

The institute, housed in an updated heritage building in Sydney’s Chippendale which was donated by Neilson, was launched as a non-partisan charity governed by an independent board.

But it emerged last week that Neilson was unhappy with some of the decisions made by the organization and had indicated she wanted to become more involved in its management.

Neilson, who has broad philanthropic interests, wants to fund social change journalism, signaling a move away from giving grants to media giants.

According to leaked emails, Ryan objected to the move and warned the International Advisory Board that the organization was spinning “out of control”. However, only four of the 12 advisory board members signed the letter to Neilson. Ryan remains on the board, but is believed to be negotiating an exit.

The managing director of Neilson’s family office, Simon Freeman, told Guardian Australia that Neilson wanted to move the organization “in a slightly different direction”.

“Judith recognizes the effort of what’s happened to date, but decided she wanted to go in a slightly different direction, which is more focused on social change journalism,” Freeman said.

Guardian Australia, like other media organisations, has had several projects funded by the institute, including the Pacific Project.

When she founded the JNI, she said she would “look to experienced journalists and other experts to manage and guide her work.”

“I know that traditional forms of journalism are undergoing massive change and Australian journalism and intellectual life needs a boost,” she said in 2018.

However, Neilson now wants to focus on grassroots journalism and communities that are underserved by the media.


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