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Giving duo happy to lead by example
Telethon patrons Malcolm McCusker and Fiona Stanley. Picture: Ian Munro / The West Australian.

As two of WA's most philanthropic and inspirational community leaders, it is fitting that Professor Fiona Stanley and Governor Malcolm McCusker head up the State's largest charity event.

As patrons of Telethon, the pair are the public faces of the popular charity and both believe it is an event that encourages incredible generosity and builds community spirit.

For Professor Stanley, Telethon is a deeply personal mission she has spent decades advocating and supporting.

The child health expert and founding director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research said the leaps and bounds the State's medical research had taken in the past two decades was due largely to the generosity of West Australians.

"Twenty-one years ago we were sort of wish and a prayer," Professor Stanley said. "We had some good asthma research and had some birth defects and cerebral palsy research. We didn't have any mental health research at all and we were starting on our Aboriginal research.

"What Telethon has done is showcase our research. The showcasing of the institute to the whole population of WA means that people absolutely love our institute.

"We have the highest participation rates in research than any other place in Australia because people trust us. What I think Telethon does for this community is give them hope that there is a better future for children and the fact that it is so successful and raises so much money is a source of immense pride."

Mr McCusker gives his $422,678 salary to charity and donates millions more to various causes. He believes Telethon is as important to the wellbeing of those who donate as it is to the recipients.

A firm believer in the important role philanthropy plays in building and strengthening communities, Mr McCusker said Telethon was special because people felt like they were making a genuine difference.

"The important thing about it is it embraces the whole community, it excites everyone," he said.

"We see the Telethon child and what's being done to help children.

"Rather than just putting money in a raffle tin box, which is great, they feel like they are part of it."

Professor Stanley, Australian of the Year 2003, said she got emotional when she thought about the remarkable difference the community's generosity had made to the wellbeing of WA children.

"There's a whole lot of kids there who are really in need and everyone knows that's what the money goes to," she said.

"Without Telethon we would not have the Institute for Child Health Research - 550 people beavering away at things we never thought we would be world experts in.

"We would not be there without that kind of absolute commitment from the community."