BHP's $20m Telethon gift

Phoebe Wearne
BHP Iron Ore president Jimmy Wilson with Telethon child Emily Prior at the Telethon Kids Institute. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

BHP Billiton has made the biggest pledge to Telethon in its history, announcing on the eve of the appeal's weekend that it will put $4 million on the tally board to kick off proceedings.

The donation, to be called out in the opening stages of Telethon tomorrow night, is the first instalment of a $20 million commitment by the mining giant to the Telethon Kids Institute.

The $20 million will be paid out over five years and fund more than 40 new research positions.

It will also support a new program targeting Aboriginal health issues in the Pilbara, which will receive $1 million of each annual contribution.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore president Jimmy Wilson, who this week toured the institute's laboratories with Telethon child Emily Prior, said BHP had a significant presence in WA and making the contribution to an iconic local charity was simply "the right thing to do".

Mr Wilson said he was excited by the potential the partnership had to make a difference to health outcomes for young people in WA and for future generations.

"This is our single biggest donation that I think we have made and to make that donation to Western Australia's most iconic charity organisation we felt was appropriate," he said.

"Our contribution will fund more than 40 new research positions, as well as important studies into Aboriginal health, which could generate groundbreaking new research right here in WA."

Telethon Kids Institute director Jonathan Carapetis said the donation would significantly boost the institute's research capacity, supporting its "best and brightest" research scientists, as well as attracting new ones.

He said the donation to start the Telethon weekend got him excited about how high the fundraising total could go this year.

"This very generous support will enable us to create the best environment for researchers to do their work and see it quickly translated into policy or clinical practice so that it really can make a difference to children's lives," Professor Carapetis said.

"We want to accelerate the discovery process and concentrate our efforts on the significant issues, diseases and disabilities that are affecting children and families here in WA and beyond."

Channel 7 Telethon Trust chairman Kerry Stokes said he could not be more thrilled to acknowledge the outstanding contribution from BHP Billiton.

"This is a most generous contribution to Telethon Kids Institute and, on behalf of Telethon, I would like to thank everyone at BHP Billiton for their commitment to assist the people of Western Australia and, importantly, support the research efforts funded by Telethon for the benefit of all Australians," he said.