Honour migrant achievers: Pratt

© The Australian

May 16, 2005

BILLIONAIRE cardboard king and philanthropist Richard Pratt wants to establish a new category of annual awards in Australia to honour the contribution of migrants to the development of the nation.

The Polish-born Mr Pratt, who emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1938 when he was four years old, said Australia needed to do more to foster a culture of community service.

“We don’t give enough accolades to people in Australia,” Mr Pratt said in New York.
“We certainly don’t do enough to recognise the important role migrants have played in Australia. It would be good for the community if we did.”

Mr Pratt said he intended speaking to John Howard and Governor-General Michael Jeffery about the idea on his return from the US where he has been awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Established in 1986, the Ellis Island awards celebrate US multiculturalism and the contribution of migrants and their descendants to their own ethnic group and to the US generally.

Mr Pratt, whose Pratt Industries employs 2000 people in the US and operates a modern waste-paper recycling plant on New York’s Staten Island, said Australia could easily apply the same awards concept.

It would help develop greater pride in Australia’s immigrant tradition, he said.

Mr Pratt said it would also give recognition that Australian migrant families were typically very concerned for those less fortunate and were good supporters of charitable causes.

“I think it would need the Governor-General’s backing. They should be his awards, but I’ll talk to some of the politicians and other interested people about it as well,” Mr Pratt said.

Among those honoured with Mr Pratt at a gala dinner held inside the old Ellis Island immigration processing centre in New York harbour were US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, NASA scientist Firouz Naderi and football, business and media identity Nick Buoniconti.