In an increasingly polarised world, Valmae Freilich is a visionary in the fight against bigotry.
Having long understood bigotry as a universal problem that had many forms, Valmae believes this complex societal issue is best combatted through a diverse range of research and education initiatives - making The Australian National University (ANU) the ideal partner in her philanthropic mission.
- Valmae Freilich, Co-Founder of the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry.
Thanks to the generous support of Valmae and her family, the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry has run continuously at ANU for over twenty years, developing a distinctly interdisciplinary and public-facing character.
Responding dynamically to the unfolding events of the world, the 2021 Freilich Lecture in Bigotry and Tolerance, delivered by esteemed Professor Sharon Nepstad from the University of New Mexico, explored how to break cycles of historical hatred and reduce conflict.
Through this and the annual Alice Tay lecture exploring human rights and their intersection with bigotry, Valmae's generous donations to ANU are increasing understanding and helping to reduce intolerance in the community.
Valmae sees the tertiary education of First Nations youth as critical to a future of greater equality and understanding. She considers her contribution to the Kambri Scholars Program her own part in reconciliation as an Australian citizen.
Valmae also supports First Nations students through the Freilich Indigenous Student Scholarship in Law. By supporting students like Max Farinazzo, the 2021 recipient of the Freilich Indigenous Student Scholarship in Law, Valmae is hoping to help create a more just society for all.
"As a proud Australian and Kamilaroi man, I feel honoured to have been awarded the Freilich Indigenous Law Scholarship. It has always been my dream to study at ANU and I feel so excited and privileged to be here," says Max.
Generous funding from Valmae in 2021 also enabled ANU to support multiple original research projects through its Fellowship and Small Grants schemes. These funds engaged researchers, educators, and policymakers to advance mutual tolerance and understanding throughout society.
Dr Andonis Piperoglou is one of the 2021 Freilich Project ECR Small Grant recipients, and says the support provided by the Freilich Project is like no other.
"When compared to other philanthropic funding in the humanities, the Freilich Project offers an incomparable space for researchers to explore the loaded topic of bigotry," says Dr Piperoglou.
Valmae's philanthropic impact continues in 2022 with a special photography exhibition, We Bleed the Same, by acclaimed photographer Tim Bauer and journalist/filmmaker Liz Deep-Jones. The exhibition provides an account of racism in Australia today, as experienced through the eyes of First Nations people, immigrants and refugees.
With the world in a period of great uncertainty, the research and public engagement Valmae has enabled through her philanthropy are more important now than ever before.