Nic Mackay

We are delighted that the Carey Medal recipient for 2018 is Nic Mackay.

Nic was a Carey student between 1989 and 2001, and was in Fullard House. In those years, he won the Gerard Cramer Memorial Prize for Outstanding Service to the Middle School, the Martin Sorensen Memorial Prize for Debating in Year 10, and was Co-Vice-Captain of the School and Co-winner of the Henry Meeks Senior Award for Scholarship, Leadership and Co-curricular Activity in Year 12. Although these were amazing achievements, it was only the beginning of his remarkable work throughout his life so far.

While undertaking and completing an Arts Law degree at the University of Melbourne, Nic co-founded and worked with the Oaktree Foundation. After completing his degree he had a significant decision to make: become the lawyer he had studied to be, or continue to pursue social activism. Nic described the choice as follows:

‘It wasn’t necessarily courage that motivated me… I didn’t like knowing exactly where I was going to be in ten years’ time, and this was what a job at a law firm represented. I think I was motivated by a sense of challenge and purpose; that whatever I was doing was making a difference.’

Nic has since spent his career helping to establish and develop some of the largest and most influential organisations in the world that are seeking to create positive social change.

In 2003, Nic and close friend Hugh Evans set up an appointment with Carey’s then Principal, Phil De Young. They asked him for an office, access to computers and a phone line to assist Nic and Hugh to grow the Oaktree Foundation. Their purpose was to enable young people to actively work together to help end extreme poverty.

Oaktree quickly gained momentum. It partnered with South African organisation Sethani and helped fund a community and education centre for 750 people. Later, the organisation co-ordinated the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY concert in 2006, which was designed to coincide with the G20 Summit in Melbourne that year. The concert attracted bands like U2 and Pearl Jam, played to 15,000 people and was watched by over 3 million people on television. In 2010, Oaktree launched Live Below the Line to help ordinary Australians engage with the issue of poverty by feeding themselves on only $2 a day for five days: the Australian equivalent of the extreme poverty line. To date, over $11 million has been raised through the campaign.

Today, Oaktree is Australia’s largest youth-run international development organisation, with over 250,000 supporters. In the past five years alone, Oaktree has funded 12 education and leadership projects to empower young people across the Asia-Pacific region.

Designed to be run entirely by young people, Oaktree implemented a policy that all staff and volunteers must be under the age of 26. It was this same policy that led Nic to ‘retire’ from Oaktree at the age of 25!

Since then, Nic has worked for a range of national and global organisations, including:

  • Co-founding Key Change Music, a not-for-profit organisation which uses music to connect young people and inspire artists around the world to promote social change;
  • Becoming the National Program Director of High Resolves, a non-profit educational initiative that motivates Australian high school students to become purposeful global citizens and leaders. Nic oversaw the expansion of the program to 100 schools in five states reaching 60,000 students. High Resolves now operates in Canada, the U.S., China, Brazil and beyond.
  • Working as a Global Campaigner with Avaaz – the world’s largest online movement – where Nic’s role included leading the Australian component of the 2015 Global Climate March and campaigning to end violence in South African schools;
  • Co-founding and chairing the Board of Common Grace – a movement of over 40,000 Australian Christians seeking to address issues of social injustice;
  • Working with CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, where Nic helped design and now leads the global SPEAK! campaign to bridge divisions and build understanding;

As a result of all this and other work, Nic has received many accolades, including the Australian Davos Connection Leadership Award recognising young leaders for their work and demonstrated vision for Australia’s future, and was invited to present at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy.

The Carey Medal Committee is thrilled to present the Carey Medal to Nic in recognition of his constant efforts and achievements to focus on and help underprivileged people.

James Newnham
Chair, The Carey Medal Committee