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5 min read
‘Just start’: Catheryn Khoo’s journey to establish the Patricia Tan Equality Fund and advice for new givers
Written by Bronte TeddyPosted on 5/10/2023
Growing up in Malaysia, Catheryn Khoo was regularly involved in her local community and actively encouraged by her family to do her part to make it a better place.
As a Girl Guide, she washed cars and did chores to raise money for charity; as a member of the Interact Club, she organised visits to local orphanages; and once a year, Catheryn and her parents would head to a seniors’ home to distribute “a carload of groceries” and small, red envelopes known as angpows, which are filled with money and shared as a custom during Chinese New Year.
Her early giving experiences and family influence all led Catheryn to design a deeply philanthropic life.
She studied and worked across the globe – from New Zealand to the United States – all while completing pro bono work on the side. And now, currently settled in Brisbane, Catheryn is a professor and Gender Expert for the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and spends her time championing women’s visibility and equality in tourism.
“I have travelled and worked with people from all over the world, and I’ve seen the disparity of opportunities one gets in a country like Malaysia versus Anglo-Saxon countries like Australia and New Zealand,” Catheryn says. “I know what the difference is, and what opportunities can do for someone like me.”
Her motivation to make a difference and have a sustainable impact prompted Catheryn to re-assess her giving and embrace a more structured model.
“I’ve always known that I would set up a fund someday, but I hadn’t known how to do or manage it,” Catheryn says. “Then I found Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) online.”
Whenever I talked to anyone at ACF and had a question, it was answered. I would always go away knowing a little bit more. Nothing seemed daunting.
“Everyone at ACF was so helpful…it all felt very doable. Whenever I talked to anyone at ACF and had a question, it was answered. I would always go away knowing a little bit more. Nothing seemed daunting.
“I could just do the job of philanthropy without having to worry about the legal and financial details, which was what stopped me when I first had this seed of an idea.”
Opening the Patricia Tan Equality Fund
After discussions with the Australian Communities Foundation team, Catheryn decided that a Gumnut Account was the right fit for her needs.
Gumnut Accounts lay the foundations for giving strategically and can be opened with as little as $2,000 and an ongoing commitment to donate $2,000 per year.
Once the Gumnut Account reaches $20,000, it matures into a Named Fund and can be used to grant to focus areas of the fund advisor’s choice.
Catheryn’s focus areas have always been abundantly clear: she’s passionate about improving access to equal opportunities and tackling gender inequality.
“I’d like to see marginalised people given the resources for personal and professional development at an international level, so they, too, can be acknowledged and celebrated for their achievements,” she notes.
“I named my Gumnut Account the Patricia Tan Equality Fund after my mother because she is the story,” Catheryn continues.
“She was born in 1950s Malaysia and didn’t have access to education. She was predominantly a housewife until she was forced to take over my father’s electrical engineering business when he became a quadriplegic in 1997.
I’d like to see marginalised people given the resources for personal and professional development, so they, too, can be acknowledged and celebrated for their achievements.
“The Fund will enable equal opportunities for people like my mum – talented, disadvantaged, and limited by a lack of education, resources, networks, exposure, and finances,” Catheryn explains.
“It will directly help reduce the barriers, and encourage growth, stimulate career prospects, and provide a pathway to eradicate gender inequality and geographical disadvantage in developing nations.”
Catheryn admits she was initially overwhelmed at the thought of setting up a fund, and says the idea was left “incubating for a long time”.
“I was sitting on an idea for eight years because I didn’t want to deal with the setting up of structures and red tape,” she says.
“But ACF stepped in to help at each part of the fund set-up process. I’m really glad I reached out and I am very grateful for this connection.”
When asked about the advice she’d offer to people thinking of opening their own fund, Catheryn says it’s about making a start.
“Don’t be overwhelmed like me! Reach out to an organisation like ACF and start talking to people. Just start. Just start and everything will fall into place.”