Planet Wheeler is a relatively new Foundation, its founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler have a long philanthropic history.
In their travels as founders and authors of Lonely Planet Publications, Maureen and Tony Wheeler saw firsthand the need to support those more in need than themselves; as Lonely Planet book sales grew over the years, so did their capacity for giving.
Lonely Planet first began a policy of donating a fixed percentage of profits to NGOs in 1987. The sale of a majority stake in Lonely Planet Publications to BBC Worldwide in 2007 forced a change in structure and Planet Wheeler Foundation – a private family Foundation, was born.
Anna Demant, Foundation Manager Planet Wheeler
“I first met Grant Mitchell, the Director of the IDC, when he was CEO of Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project. During his time there, Grant helped pioneer processes for supporting asylum seekers which are among the most progressive in the world. Although Australia’s approach to ‘boat people’ is now globally notorious, Australia does have some the most innovative alternative to detention programs for asylum seekers, and partly because of Grant’s input.
So Grant had already shown that he could turn words into action for refugees when he approached Planet Wheeler Foundation four years ago to support the International Detention Coalition.
Four years on IDC are a small but nimble and highly effective team. We often note that International Detention Coalition operates at a pace and level which would befit a much larger team. Relentless meeting schedules with government officials around the globe, and ground-breaking publications detailing practical alternatives to detention have generated real results; IDC’s small team is responsible for startling wins such as the recommendation from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that children should not be kept in detention under any circumstances, and the Council of Europe’s unprecedented support for a two year campaign involving 47 member states to promote alternatives to detaining children.
Four years on however, we are well aware that for every win there is likely to be a setback. For instance, a change in government in Belgium and now that country is no longer a potential ally in the quest to remove children from immigration detention. Advocacy is one of the riskier parts of a Foundation’s portfolio: gains are hard won if they are won at all; but good advocacy can create real systems change with impacts which far outstrip pure service delivery.
The IDC is the only global group working to promote viable alternatives to detention. Together with its partners, it is tirelessly pursuing a regional solution to a global problem. Crucially, IDC members involve a wide range of actors focussed on a protection agenda, from very small groups providing direct assistance to asylum seekers in detention in Malaysia, to large Australian universities.
The IDC takes the politics out of what many have called a “wicked problem’’, that is a problem whereby solving one problem creates others. By going directly to government and providing technical solutions to problems such as where to put children if they are released, or how to work with family members, IDC has found that many bureaucrats and decision makers are open to releasing children from detention, they are just cautious. Refugees and asylum seekers need advocates who have a global focus and ability to provide solutions, in the face of what can often be a narrow debate.
As an Australian based Foundation, Planet Wheeler would like to see the conversation about refugees and asylum seekers change in this country from one focussed on security to one looking to promote a protection-based framework in the region. We support the International Detention Coalition because of their pragmatic focus on delivering results for the people unwillingly caught up in the biggest movement of people since the Second World War.”