Australia is often called ‘the lucky country.’
As descendants of determined migrants, Paul and Sandra Salteri worked hard to build successful businesses. But they are aware that their wealth was built on stolen lands of First Nations' people. Lands that were never ceded.
Australia was ‘lucky country’ for the determined Salteri family, but not for Indigenous people, suffering the ongoing impacts of colonisation.
Fortune, and being fortunate was in part because 'all the systems worked in our benefit'. Paul and Sandra were raised to understand that with success comes a responsibility to give back, an understanding they wanted to pass on to their children.
In 2009, Paul and Sandra Salteri established CAGES Foundation, wanting to involve their children in their philanthropy, who decided the foundation should focus on making a positive difference in the lives of First Nations’ children.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to build a life in Australia, and are driven to give back in a way that creates lasting change. Guided by our partners, we focus on the early years to support Indigenous children to grow up healthy, happy and safe.”
About our name
When Paul and Sandra Salteri established their foundation, they wanted a name that included their children and captured inter-generational philanthropy. CAGES is an acronym of their children’s names; Carla, Anthony and GEmma Salteri and represents two generations of expertise, experiences, ideas and interests.
CAGES Foundation is pushing itself and the philanthropy sector to think and operate differently, outside the norm, of western ways of working.
Listen & learn
Paul and Sandra’s Story
Paul immigrated to Australia with his mother Renatta and his sister Mary when he was four-years old. They were following his father Carlo who had made the journey one year earlier when he was put in charge of the project awarded to Società Anonima Elettrificazione SpA (SAE) to deliver and install transmission power cables in Australia. After five years Carlo saw an opportunity to build his own business in his new home and started a business called Transfield with his business partner. Paul remembers starting school unable to speak English and being mercilessly teased for bringing salami sandwiches to school.
Paul joined Transfield in 1978 and became the joint managing director in 1986. He went on to build and lead a new defence business, Tenixi, which amongst many other successful projects delivered the ANZAC frigate project for the Australian government in the 1990’s. The Salteri family sold the Tenix business to BAE systems in 2008, and ultimately all other operating businesses, and now operates a private investment business.
Sandra’s family immigrated to Australia from England in 1949 after her father, Anthony Skipton, was advised to move to a warmer climate for health reasons. Her mother Gladys endured a 6-week boat trip with 9-month-old twins, arriving in Sydney where her husband met her and drove to Cattai Farm in Richmond, a very different world from cosmopolitan London. Together Anthony (known as Tone) and Gladys worked hard to build numerous successful businesses starting with a hamburger shop and becoming one of the area's most successful business people. Tone was well known in the community and is remembered as being generous and full of integrity. Tone and Glad were grateful to give their twin daughters a great life in their new country.
Skipton’s arcade is still a thriving hub in Penrith and Sandra still claims she makes the best hamburgers in Australia!
“We have had the privilege of providing gifts to organisations, communities and people who are able to make a real difference in community. We have evolved our funding principles to foster Aboriginal leadership, genuine partnerships and capacity building, which have become core to everything that we support.
Through these we hope to make worthwhile and effective funding decisions, which address real issues and create solutions, which will be owned and delivered by the community.”
Paul and Sandra Salteri
Co-founders CAGES Foundation
Paul and Sandra Salteri strongly believe in giving in all its forms, kindness, capital, intellect, time and resources.
We created CAGES Foundation as a vehicle to help strengthen the Indigenous early childhood sector, for First Nations’ children to grow up healthy, happy and safe in culture and identity.
However, we quickly learned that we weren’t making all the positive changes we’d hoped.
So we asked Indigenous communities ‘why doesn’t investment always work?’
‘Because they don’t trust us’ was the reply.
So we delved deeper to understand the impact of distrust by governments and investors.
Indigenous communities spend a lot of time, and resources they don’t have applying for and reporting on grants. Applications and reporting is rigid, onerous, prescriptive about how funds may be used, and how impacts are measured.
“It’s a waste of philanthropic funding to do things that are not going to work on the ground”
Image courtesy of Mudgin-gal Women's Place
A place of discomfort
We knew we had to do things differently.
The first step was listening. Truths of the brutality of invasion and ongoing impacts of colonisation are hard to hear. Everyone at the Foundation had to sit in a place of discomfort to truly understand.
In that process we saw the obvious. Philanthropy traditionally operates in very white, western and rigid systems, where the funder holds all the power over recipients, who are often kept at arm's length.
Indigenous communities hold incredible wealth, 60 thousand plus years of wisdom, expertise and skills. We had to change our way of thinking and working.
Reversing the power imbalance
We had to unlearn much of what we knew and how we operated in the philanthropic world.
This meant truly walking and working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations.
This meant letting go of our power as a philanthropic foundation to those who can create lasting change in their communities.
Aboriginal community controlled and led organisations must have the flexibility, freedom and support to determine how to best use funds. They define their own points of impact and measures for success.
First Nations’ people are the experts. They show us the best way to invest, collaborate and advocate to help achieve their goals.
Holistic and sustained
We didn’t get to this point overnight. We take time to get to know our partners, understand their objectives, and what role we can play in achieving their goals..
In letting go of our power, we gained so much more.
The honour of walking alongside the world’s oldest living culture and seeing First Nations’ children, their families and communities thrive.
“Thanks to CAGES, we were able to respond exactly the way in which our community needed us to, and we were able to provide the immediate supports that were being asked of us as an organisation.”
Building On Community Assets
It is intended that all funding provided by CAGES Foundation enables Indigenous people, organisations and communities to achieve improved life outcomes for their children beyond the life of the funding.
All funding will be directed to organisations that recognise the strong cultural, creative assets of First Nations peoples.