David Gonski

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David Gonski

Born (1953-10-07) 7 October 1953 (age 69)
Cape Town, South Africa
Alma materUniversity of New South Wales
SpouseOrli Wargon

David Michael Gonski AC (born 7 October 1953) is an Australian public figure and businessman.

In 2008, The Sydney Morning Herald described Gonski as "one of the country's best-connected businessmen" and dubbed him "Mr Networks" for being "arguably Sydney's most networked man".[1][2] A profile in 2010 by Australian author and Herald columnist Malcolm Knox said that Gonski is "a quiet man, in some ways invisible, and cleaves to the shadows."[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Gonski was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and his family migrated to Australia in 1961 in the wake of the Sharpeville massacre.[3] Gonski's father, Alexander, was a neurosurgeon of Polish background and a founding member of The Coast Golf Club at Little Bay, New South Wales. His mother is Helene Blume. In a 2010 interview, Gonski recalls that one of his earliest recollections was his mother buying a lithograph by Australian artist, Charles Blackman; commenting that "there's no doubt that my love for Australian art came from her."[4] Gonski is Jewish.[5][6] He attended Sydney Grammar School and the University of New South Wales, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1976 and a Bachelor of Laws degree (with the University Medal) in 1977.

Early career[edit]

Gonski practised as a solicitor with the firm of Freehills from 1977 to 1986, becoming their youngest ever partner at age 25, before leaving to co-found an investment bank. While at Freehills, he taught intellectual property law for the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales.[4]

He established a corporate advisory firm, Wentworth Associates Pty Ltd, which was acquired by Investec Bank in March 2001.

Business leadership[edit]

Gonski's business background is extensive, and it is estimated that he sits on more than 40 boards.[3] Current prominent positions held in business include chairman, independent non-executive director of ANZ Bank; Ingeus Limited; Swiss Re Life and Health Australia Limited; ASX Limited (since 2008);[7] and Investec Bank (Australia) Limited.[8] He is a senior adviser to Morgan Stanley Australia Limited; chairman of the advisory board of Transfield Holdings[9] (the private holding company of Transfield Services); and is a non-executive director of Singapore Airlines.[10]

His previous roles have included non-executive director of John Fairfax Holdings (between 1993 and 2005);[11] ANZ Bank (between 2001 and 2007); Westfield Group (between 1985 and 2011);[12] Consolidated Press; non-executive director and chair of Coca-Cola Amatil (1997 to 2017;[13] and ING Australia.[4]

However, not all Gonski's efforts have yielded strong results. During the mid-1980s on Gonski's advice, Frank Lowy established Westfield Capital Corporation with Gonski as an advisor. WCC invested in the predecessor of Ten Network Holdings that eventually resulted in Westfield losing several hundred million dollars.[4]

In August 2022, Gonski was appointed Chair of new retirement living provider Levande by EQT Infrastructure, following the acquisition of Stockland Group's 58 villages across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.[14]

Community leadership[edit]

In 1999, Gonski was appointed as a director to the UNSW Foundation. He became chancellor of the University of New South Wales and a member of the council of the university in 2005 and in 2007 became chair of the UNSW Foundation.[15] Gonski is the first alumnus of the University of New South Wales to hold the position of chancellor at that university.[16]

He is chairman of the National e-Health Transition Authority, a statutory authority of the Australian government;[17] and chair of the Sydney Theatre Company (since February 2010).[4] Gonski is a non-executive director of Infrastructure NSW, an agency of the New South Wales Government. He is a member of the nomination panel for appointments to the boards of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service and is patron of Raise Foundation[18] and the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.[19]

Amidst some controversy, Gonski succeeded David Murray as independent non-executive chairman of the Australian Government Future Fund on 3 April 2012.[3][20][21][22]

During 2011, Gonski was chair of the expert advisory panel of the Commonwealth Government's Review of the Funding of Schools in Australia,[23][24] which the media commonly refers to as "the Gonski review". He has also served on the Takeovers Panel, an advisory body for the Commonwealth government. During 1996 and 1997, Gonski undertook a Review of Commonwealth Assistance to the Film Industry, presenting his report of that review in 1997. He was also a member of the committee appointed in 1998 to conduct an Inquiry into the Major Performing Arts Sector.[citation needed]

Gonski's previous positions held include chair of the Australia Council for the Arts (between 2002 and 2006);[15][25] president of the board of trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (since 1997);[15] chair of the National Institute of Dramatic Art; chair of the board of trustees of Sydney Grammar School (between 2003 and 2010);[15][26] chair of Film Australia.

At various times he has served on the boards of St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney; the Bundanon Trust; Philanthropy Australia; and the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce; and other non-profit entities.[citation needed]

Gonski Reports[edit]

In April 2010, Gonski was commissioned by Julia Gillard, then Minister for Education in the Rudd Government, to be chairman of a committee to make recommendations regarding funding of education in Australia. The findings and recommendations of the committee were presented to the government in November 2011, whereafter deliberations were entered into by the federal and state governments to consider its content. The committee's report is known as the Gonski Report.[27] Subsequently, the proposed reforms (an increase in funding) became known as "Gonski" and supporters urged governments to "Give a Gonski". The report was removed from the website by the incoming government after the 2013 federal election and is preserved by Australia's Pandora Archive.[28][29]

In 2017, Gonski chaired an independent panel,[30] the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, commissioned to examine evidence and make recommendations on how school funding should be used to improve school performance and student outcomes. The second Gonski report, referred to as Gonski 2.0,[31] was published on 30 April 2018.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Gonski was a close friend and advisor to the late media baron Kerry Packer. Together with Lloyd Williams, he was an executor of Packer's estate.[4] While he provided advice to Packer, Gonski was also a director of Packer's media competitor, John Fairfax Holdings. He is close friends with Izzy Asper, Arthur Boyd, Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and Frank Lowy.[3] His mentor was the late Kim Santow.[4]

Gonski is married to a Boston-born dermatologist Orli Wargon,[33] with whom he has three children: Michael, Kate and Timothy.[4]


In 2002, Gonski was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for service to the community through Australian visual and performing arts organisations, through the development of government policy, and through the promotion of corporate sponsorship for the arts and for charitable organisations.[34] He received the Centenary Medal in 2003. In 2007 Gonski was invested as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to the arts through charitable support and the development of policy initiatives, to business and commerce as a company director, to education, and to the community through a range of philanthropic endeavours.[35]

At the University of New South Wales, Law Theatre G02 is named the Gonski Levy Theatre in his honour.

In 2013, Gonski was ranked No. 19 on the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute's Public Investor 100,[36] and in 2018 named in the top five influencers in Australian education by the Australian Financial Review.[37]

Gonski is a life fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a fellow of CPA Australia.


  1. ^ "The Top 100 2008: Sydney's Most Influential People". The Sydney Magazine. Vol. 69. January 2009. p. 62.
  2. ^ Marr, David (23–24 July 2011). "50 Most Powerful People". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 4.
  3. ^ a b c d e Evans, Michael (13 March 2012). "Sydney bigwig to head Future Fund". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Knox, Malcolm (13 March 2012). "David Gonski - the man behind the power". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  5. ^ "David Gonski - the man behind the power". 13 March 2012.
  6. ^ "Subscribe to the Australian | Newspaper home delivery, website, iPad, iPhone & Android apps".
  7. ^ "Board of Directors" (PDF). ASX Limited. 20 December 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Director profiles". Investec Bank Australia Limited. 2011. Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  9. ^ "David Gonski AC". Advisory Board. Transfield Holdings. 2011. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  10. ^ "Board of Directors". Singapore Airlines. 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  11. ^ "David Gonski retires as a director of the company" (PDF) (Press release). John Fairfax Holdings Limited. 8 April 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.
  12. ^ "Board of Directors" (PDF). Westfield Group. 2010. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  13. ^ "More retirements on Coca-Cola Amatil Board". SBS TV News. Special Broadcasting Service. 8 March 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Gonski chairs EQT's former Stockland retirement portfolio". August 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d "David Gonski". Chancellors Exhibition. University of New South Wales. 31 January 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  16. ^ "David Gonski reappointed Chancellor" (Press release). University of New South Wales. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  17. ^ "NEHTA Board". National e-Health Transition Authority. 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  18. ^ "Our People". Raise. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Patrons - About". Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  20. ^ Wright, Jessica; Yeates, Clancy (16 March 2012). "Murray wades into Future Fund fight over Costello". National Times. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  21. ^ Packham, Ben; Massola, James (15 March 2012). "Labor refuses to release report showing Future Fund board wanted Costello, not Gonski". The Australian. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  22. ^ Griffiths, Emma (16 March 2012). "Minchin backs Gonski over Future Fund 'shemozzle'". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  23. ^ Gonski, David; et al. (December 2011). Review of Funding for Schooling: Final Report. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Commonwealth of Australia. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-642-78223-6. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  24. ^ "Review calls for school spending overhaul". ABC News. Australia. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  25. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours to 524 Australians" (transcript). The World Today, ABC Radio. Australia. 11 June 2007.
  26. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (17 January 2011). "School drift sets alarm bells ringing". The Age. Australia.
  27. ^ "What's in the Gonski Report?". ABC News. Australia. 27 August 2012.
  28. ^ "Review of funding for schooling". Pandora. National Library of Australia.
  29. ^ "Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling Final Report" (PDF). Pandora. National Library of Australia. December 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2013.
  30. ^ "Panel Members - Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools". Department of Education and Training. Australian Government. 12 February 2018. Archived from the original on 26 March 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  31. ^ "What is Gonski 2.0?". Independent Schools Council of Australia. Archived from the original on 24 August 2019. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  32. ^ "Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools" (PDF). Australian Government. Department of Education and Training. 30 April 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 April 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  33. ^ Lawson, Valerie (18 April 2002). "David no less than a Goliath in his can-do world". The Age. Australia.
  34. ^ "GONSKI David Michael: Officer of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 10 June 2002.
  35. ^ "GONSKI David Michael: Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 11 June 2007.
  36. ^ http://www.swfinstitute.org/public-investor-100/david-gonski/ Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute
  37. ^ "The 5 most influential people in education". Financial Review. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
Government offices
Preceded by President of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
1997 – 2006
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis
President of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
2016 – present
Business positions
Preceded by Chairman of the Australian Government Future Fund
2012 – 2014
Succeeded by
Preceded by
John Morschel
Chairman of ANZ Banking Group
2014 – 2020
Succeeded by
Paul O'Sullivan
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of New South Wales
2005 – present