Joe wants to shout out loud for grant applicants

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John James Foundation CEO Joe Roff… “We send medical specialists to the Solomon Islands. Canberra doctors volunteer their time by providing treatments and surgeries.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

CANBERRA’S John James Foundation is one of the largest not-for-profit, healthcare charities in Australia, but who knew?

Now, after nearly a year as its CEO, former rugby union star Joe Roff wants to shout about the great work it does and encourage people to apply for grants.

“The John James Foundation does fly under the radar a bit and a lot of people do say ‘what’s the John James Foundation?’” Joe says.

Led by about 150 medical specialists, it was founded in 2006 by doctors who wanted to give back to the community.

And, the foundation keeps on giving today, especially after its recent sale of the John James Hospital campus in Deakin for more than $100 million.

This year the foundation will double the allocation of grants provided to Canberra charities that undertake critical work in the community in health promotion.

He says the foundation is now in a position where it can provide $500,000 in grants over the next financial year and is confident this can continue into the future.

As well as increasing grants, the hospital sale to Barwon Investment Partners also brought the foundation “out from under the radar” in another way.

Its members recently called for a motion of no confidence after the board made the sale without consulting members.   

“This is the largest healthcare charity in Australia, so I imagine that’s why it’s getting a real focus from the members,” Joe says.

“It’s worth in excess of $100 million and so the governance and the stewardship, which is being managed very well, is being reviewed by sections of the membership.”

Joe defends the sale saying that board confidentiality was a requirement because a large amount of commercially sensitive information was shared between the interested parties in the process.

“With a transaction of that size, those people seeking to purchase were provided with information in the IP that is commercially confidential to the foundation and vice versa,” he says.

He’s confident that the sale will benefit the foundation and increase its philanthropic activity and says this was one of the key drivers of the sale.

“We do that [philanthropic activity] through community grants, medical education and supporting disadvantaged students to complete medical degrees,” he says.

“One of the subjects that’s quite exceptional is we send medical specialists to the Solomon Islands.

“Canberra doctors volunteer their time by providing treatments and surgeries.”

The foundation’s mission is to exist for the benefit of the community and Joe says the proceeds of the sale now enable the foundation to expand on this, by doubling the grants.

“I’m very confident it [the grant money] will stay at that level and we will start seeking new initiatives to invest back into the community as well,” he says.

“The foundation will take its time to ensure that the proceeds of the sale are utilised effectively to gain the maximum positive impact.

“We’re hoping to announce a partnership with an autism education association soon, too.”

Traditionally, the John James Foundation gives about 20 grants each year of varying size and scale.

But in addition, the foundation is looking for partnership opportunities in the charity space or medical services.

“I want Canberra to have a greater awareness of what the John James Foundation is and how our private medical doctors and specialists are giving back to the community,” he says.

“It’s a great place to work and create things that support Canberra under the legacy of the John James Foundation through the hospital.”

Further information about the grants and to apply visit


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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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