In a year where many in our community suffered from the effects of the global pandemic and the future of WA’s favourite fundraiser was uncertain, West Australians have come together and raised a record $46.3 million for Telethon.
Despite this year’s new format, Telethon’s spirit of giving reached remarkable levels, with newly elected Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas hosting the special two nights of entertainment.
Favourite sporting stars Nic Naitanui and Nat Fyfe, as well as Hollywood actress Kate Walsh joined the star-studded line up at the Crown Theatre in a spectacular effort to raise much-needed money for the kids of WA.
Mothers of children with cancer were among hundreds of volunteers taking phone donations, while special live performances from Inneka and Joel Jackson & the Moorditj Mob entertained the audience.
The second day of Telethon’s entertainment also featured an exclusive pre-recorded performance from Birds of Tokyo’s Ian Kenny with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. As colour flooded Optus Stadium today — without a football in sight — Telethon chairman Richard Goyder reflected on what may not have been.
Mr Goyder admitted that as the pandemic took hold in March, he and his Telethon staff began to fear for the 50 organisations reliant on the fundraiser.
In April, he told The West Australian that he believed Telethon would become “part of the revival of post-coronavirus WA”.
He watched as that bold claim became reality, with 25,000 people flooding into to the Family Festival at the stadium. On Saturday night, the Telethon ball raised more than $3 million.
“From January, every day got exponentially worse, whether you were worrying about an airline, a football competition, oil and gas, or Telethon,” Mr Goyder, who also is chairman of Qantas, the AFL Commission and Woodside Petroleum, said.
“Every day got worse with thoughts that people were going to get locked up at home and to reflect now where we were in March and where we are today. It’s a remarkable turnaround and a credit to everyone who has done the hard work.
“We were so worried about the 50 beneficiary organisations who rely on Telethon every year and the generosity … we’ve had to find a way of funding those organisations and going harder on medical research and I think we’re going to be OK.”
Mr Goyder said that under the trying circumstances, he had again been left in awe of WA’s trademark selflessness.
“One thing you know about West Australians is that they are generous and they will look after our kids,” he said.
“The community has done a lot of hard yards this year and we’re still not through it but this is an opportunity for us to reflect that kids go through these things every day of their lives and we can do something for them.”
Premier Mark McGowan said the weekend proved “how compassionate and united WA is”.
“Our State can be so proud for what we have achieved together this Telethon weekend,” he said.
“Telethon is a big part of the community fabric of WA, it symbolises everything we stand for as a community.
“Congratulations to everyone involved in pulling together this incredible event, even in the middle of a global pandemic.
“Given the difficulties organisers faced and the need for a new format due to COVID-19, I believe it was the best yet. Telethon is a magnificent WA cause.”
Telethon’s opening night got off to a flying start with Casey Donovan and the cast of We Will Rock You belting out It’s a Kind of Magic and the title song from the Queen-inspired musical.
The entertainment — and the donations — flowed from there with the overall tally reaching $15,419,103 by midnight on Saturday.
Among the highlights were performances from YouTube sensations The Rybka Twins, Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse singing Koorlangka. Another highlight of Saturday was the grilling Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann copped from little Freya Cross, who showed she has what it takes to become the next Channel 7 political reporter Geof Parry.
The youngster did not hold back, firing off a series of questions that put Mr Cormann on the spot.
Freya began by asking him what he actually does, then moved straight into his impending retirement from politics.
“I heard you quit, are you getting too old?” she cheekily asked before getting down to the business end of the interview — the cash.
The Federal Government, through Mr Cormann, donated $4.8 million, up from its $3.5 million donation last year.
Big business also came to the party, with mining giant BHP pledging $4 million, the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation adding $2 million and Paul Ramsay Foundation giving $1.3 million.
Woolworths donated $200,000, Bankwest pledged $120,000 and Westrac and Perth Airport donated $50,000.