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An Interview with Renata Kaldor

Portrait by Zak Kalivas
Interview by Janne Ryan
Renata Kaldor

RENATA KALDOR: Chair, City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney; Co-Founder (with husband Andrew Kaldor), Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, University of NSW, Sydney

GAME-CHANGER: Almost everyone on this earth is a philanthropist in one way or another. It’s not to do with money, it’s to do with giving back, whether it is time or energy, or ideas, or money. When I was called a philanthropist for the first time, I was insulted by the word, [to me] it [then] denoted money and wealth, and a showing off of what you’ve got. So I looked up the word philanthropist and it said ‘the lover of mankind, one who exerts himself for the wellbeing of his fellow man’. I liked those words.

ACHIEVING GOALS: I think, in Australia at least, we realise that the government is not fulfilling the needs of mankind, in all sorts of ways, and those of us who are able to do it, need to help in a social way or in a cultural way too, to augment what the government is or is not doing. We’ve now realised that the government is not willing to do some of the things that we as a community want done.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: The biggest gift we’ve given, and what we’re most proud of, is we have set up the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law*, within the Law Faculty at University of NSW. We were astonished and disappointed with both governments over the treatment of refugees. Being refugees it hit home for us**. There is so much work to be done to re-dress what refugees and asylum seekers are facing in the 21st century.

GREATEST CHALLENGE: Greatest challenge is to say no. As a philanthropist you’ve got so many areas to give money too, where real change can happen. I just wish we’d made more money so we could give more.

HOW THEY GOT STARTED: My husband Andrew [Kaldor] commissioned Australian composer Ross Edwards to write, Earth, Spirit, Songs, celebrating my 50th birthday. It was performed in 1997 by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with singer Yvonne Kenny and conducted by David Zinman.


** Renata and Andrew Kaldor, co-founded the UNSW Kaldor Centre for National Refugee Law in
2013. Both refugees, their families fled to Australia from Eastern Europe after WW2.