Evan Thornley

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Evan Thornley speaking at the True Cost Economics Forum, Melbourne Town Hall, 2007.
Evan Thornley speaking at an Australian Labor Party gathering on the night of the 2006 state election, at which he was a candidate.

Evan William Thornley (born 1964), is an Australian social entrepreneur, philanthropist and impact investor.[1] Thornley is the founder and executive chair of LongView,[2] with a mission to find solutions to Australia's housing crisis.[3] Based on his own childhood without secure housing, he is a passionate advocate for renters[4] as well as bridging the affordability gap for Australian’s who don’t come from money, and lack the bank of mum and dad[5].  LongView has grown to become a recognised industry leader[6] in residential property buying and management and now, through its Shared Equity Fund (a form of equity sharing) is pioneering the development of a funds management to already existing dwelling assets to solve Australia's property market's affordability crisis by co-investing alongside homebuyers.[7] [8]

Thornley was founding chair of Per Capita and National Secretary of the Australian Fabian Society.[9] He was a board member of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Chifley Research Centre, was a founding director of GetUp!. Along with his wife, he founded LookSmart, the first Australian dot-com company listed on the NASDAQ. During the dot-com bubble, his stake in the company was worth almost $1 billion, but its value declined by 99% as the bubble burst.[10] Thornley made an attempt to buy LookSmart’s search engine competitor Google during its early days[11] but founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rejected the offer.

Thornley is a co-founder of the Goodstart Consortium - a social enterprise that owns the largest childcare network in the world (formerly called ABC Learning). His vision for Goodstart was to ensure Australia’s children have the best possible start in life by providing the learning, development and wellbeing outcomes they need.[12] He was formerly the CEO of Better Place Australia and Global CEO of Better Place LLC, which developed electric cars and the charging or switching stations to support them.[13] [14]Thornley served in public office for two years as the Labor member of the Victorian Legislative Council for the Southern Metropolitan Region, and as Parliamentary Secretary to Premiers Bracks and Brumby.[15]

Background and early career[edit]

Thornley was raised by a single mother under difficult circumstances on the NSW coast.[16] At one stage his mother had 4 children under the age of 7, and survived on welfare and the kindness of the local community. He has 6 sisters.

A gifted student, Thornley attended Scotch College, Melbourne on a full scholarship[17] and is a graduate of the University of Melbourne. He commenced his university studies in 1983 and served in full-time elected student office as President of the Student Representative Council, and then in the National Union of Students in 1987 and 1988. He completed a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1990, and from 1991 to 1995 he was a consultant at McKinsey and Company, a management consultancy firm.[18]

Political career[edit]

Elected to the Parliament of Victoria in 2006, he served as Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Premier on the National Reform Agenda and Innovation until his resignation on 31 December 2008. He is a noted donor to various progressive causes, including the Australian Labor Party.

On 28 December 2008, Thornley announced that he would resign from the Victorian Parliament, despite speculation that he would be chosen to serve as a minister in John Brumby's government.[19] His resignation had mixed responses in Victorian politics, with some Labor colleagues who thought his decision "insulting" [20] and others acknowledging that for many people like Thornley who move into politics to make a real and personal impact, the reality of the slow pace of change within government can be frustrating and unsuitable.[21]

After his departure he announced he had been appointed as the CEO of Australian operations for Better Place, a company promoting electric cars,[22] which he said he thought was a "once-in-a-generation transformational project".[23]

A joint sitting of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament was required to select a new member to fill the vacancy caused by Thornley's resignation. It was the first casual vacancy to occur since the reform of the Legislative Council in 2006. Under the new rules, which mirror those of the Australian Senate, if the vacating MLC had been elected as a member of a political party, the joint sitting must select a person nominated by that political party.[24] On 30 January 2009, it was announced that Melbourne lawyer Jennifer Huppert had been nominated by the ALP to fill the upper house vacancy.[25]

Post-political career[edit]

Having served as the Australian head of Better Place since his resignation from parliament, Thornley was elevated to global CEO of the company following the sacking, in October 2012, of its founder and major spokesperson Shai Agassi. However, Thornley severed his connection with Better Place only three months later.[26]

In January 2014, he became executive chair of Same Business Different Outcome (SBDO), a private equity firm. He is now executive chair of LongView, a property management company.[27]

Connection to Israel, Judaism[edit]

Thornley first went to Israel on a Young Political Leaders' Tour while at University and was part of a pro-Israel group humorously dubbed "the Mossad faction". He led an Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce trade mission to Israel in 2008 and has been a delegate to the Australia Israel Leadership Forum several times. He was Secretary of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel and visited Israel over 30 times during his tenure at Better Place. He was a member of the strategic review panel for the Rabbinical Council of Victoria. Thornley began a formal process of converting to Judaism in 2012 under Rabbi Adam Stein at Kehilat Nitzan, Melbourne's only Conservative synagogue.[28][29] Thornley formally completed the conversion process on 19 August 2014 and adopted the Hebrew name of "Lev Yonatan".


  1. ^ Treadgold, John (1 March 2022). "Evan Thornley Has A Radical New Vision for the Business of Real-Estate in Australia". OnImpact. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  2. ^ "Evan Thornley". longview.com.au. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  3. ^ Lewis, Peter (30 May 2023). "The housing crisis threatens to unleash Australia's darker angels. Peter Dutton is intent on exploiting it". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  4. ^ "Is Australia the worst country in the world to be a renter?". ABC listen. 14 September 2023. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  5. ^ "Australia one of worst countries in developed world to be a renter". 9now.nine.com.au. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  6. ^ "REIV promises ethics action for industry during annual awards night - realestate.com.au". www.realestate.com.au. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  7. ^ "LongView launches shared equity fund". Financial Standard. 1 May 2023. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  8. ^ Saffer, Carol. "Entrepreneur Evan Thornley tackles housing problems". www.australianjewishnews.com. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  9. ^ "Evan Thornley". The Wheeler Centre. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  10. ^ "Looksmart chief upsets board". The Age. 26 June 2002. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  11. ^ "We've been duped by Big Tech says the Aussie who tried to buy Google". Australian Financial Review. 2 January 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  12. ^ "Bold Goodstart not-for-profit experiment pays off". Goodstart Corporate. 29 August 2017. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Better Place: Israel's electric car start-up killed by its own success". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. 20 May 2023. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  14. ^ "Thornley moves up in Better Place". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  15. ^ "Evan Thornley | Parliament of Victoria". new.parliament.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  16. ^ Moncrief, Marc (28 December 2008). "Humble beginnings no impediment to burning ambition". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  17. ^ Moncrief, Marc (2 January 2009). "A real life Evan-sent mystery". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  18. ^ "LookSmart before you leap". Australian Financial Review. 15 September 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  19. ^ Moncrief, Marc (28 December 2008). "Millionaire Thornley resigns from Parliament". The Age.
  20. ^ Moncrieff and Ker, Marc and Peter (30 December 2008). "Labor fury at departing MP". The Age.
  21. ^ Moncrief, Marc (2 January 2009). "A real life Evan-sent mystery". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  22. ^ Moncrief and Austin, Marc and Paul (21 January 2009). "Thornley: Why I shunned cabinet seat". The Age.
  23. ^ "Thornley: Why I shunned cabinet seat". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  24. ^ Information Sheet No.16, Legislative Council (October 2007). "A New Electoral System for Victoria's Legislative Council". Department of the Legislative Council, Parliament of Victoria.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Best, Catherine (30 January 2009). "Huppert to replace Thornley as Vic MP". The Age.
  26. ^ Crook, Andrew (29 January 2013). "Better Place hits a dead end as CEO Evan Thornley abandons electric dreams". smartcompany.com.au. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  27. ^ "Meet Our Team". LongView. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  28. ^ Saffer, Carol. "Entrepreneur Evan Thornley tackles housing problems". www.australianjewishnews.com. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  29. ^ "16/3/2023 - Lily High on Life - Evan Thornley - Lily High on Life". omny.fm. Retrieved 27 November 2023.

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