- »Lotterywest and WA Government Face Grant Challenge
Lotterywest and WA Government Face Grant Challenge
The government of Western Australia and its lottery arm – Lotterywest – must prepare for a challenge in the way they award grants.
Former tennis champion and founder of Victory Life Centre in Perth Margaret Court filed an equal opportunities complaint against Lotterywest and the WA government. Her claim alleges that they refused to award a grant to her church, which performs outreach services like food deliveries, because of her views on same-sex marriage.
A Little about Lotterywest Grants
As a lottery provider of the WA government, Lotterywest as the state’s lottery provider. A portion of the profits from each sale supports a grant program, one that has been in place for more than 85 years.
For example, Lotterywest recently wrapped up its 2019-2020 fiscal year, for which it reported $959 million in lotto ticket sales. Of that sum, the organization returned $732 million back to the community, both through prizes and grants.
During that 2019-2020 time period, Lotterywest awarded 818 grants, spread out in donations to 690 Western Australia nonprofit organizations and local governments. That money was divided as follows:
- Health-related charities = $139 million
- Sports activities and organizations = $17.5 million
- The arts = $17.5 million
- Direct donations = $118 million
The goal of Lotterywest’s grants is three-fold: make wise use of community funds, provide sound support to sustain grant initiatives, and show the benefits of community grants.
How Lotterywest Chooses Organizations
When choosing recipients of grants, Lotterywest staff must weigh community needs and the best ways to make the most impact. There are three primary categories into which these groups may fall:
- Supporting the most vulnerable via crisis and emergency relief, and prevention and early intervention
- Building community through arts and culture organizations, environmental benefits, and aboriginal communities in need
- Strengthening and adapting organizations based on capabilities and governance, innovative service models, and sector collaboration
Lotterywest even offers guidance regarding the qualifications for grant approval. Firstly, it must align with one of the three above programs. Secondly, the grant must correlate directly with the organization’s purpose. And finally, the activity must take place in WA or benefit the community therein.
There is a list of organizations that Lotterywest does not support:
- Individuals, government-funded organizations, for-profit organizations
- Promotion of sports teams or team travel unless for a charitable purpose
- Interstate or international projects
- Standard operating costs
- Faith-based activities of religious organizations except welfare and community-related services
- Retrospective requests
- Activities funded by the government
- Government-run schools
- Prizes for people or organizations without a charitable purpose
- Purchases of cigarettes, alcohol, or unhealthy food and drink
Enter a Former Tennis Champion
Margaret Court is a 78-year-old woman who currently serves as a Christian minister in Perth. She gained fame, however, for her accomplishments in the sport of tennis.
Court’s tennis career began at the young age of eight. By the time she was 18 in 1960, she won her first singles title at the Australian Championships. She made history in 1970 as the first woman to win the singles Grand Slam during the Open Era and the second in general tennis history.
Over the course of her career through 1977, she won 24 Grand Slam singles titles, another record. She won 19 women’s doubles titles and 21 mixed doubles titles. She won 11 Australian Open titles, a record she set in 1973 and held until Rafael Nadal beat that record by one in 2019.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame inducted her in 1979, into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985, and into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993. She is hailed as one of the best female tennis pros in history.
Enter a Controversial Minister
Around the time of her retirement, Court became associated with the Pentecostal church and became an ordained Christian minister in that church in 1991. She then founded Margaret Court Ministries before founding Victory Life Centre. She currently serves as the senior pastor there.
In that faith and in all manners of speaking, Court opposes same-sex marriage and many advancements made by LGBTQ+ communities.
Many openly gay tennis players – Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova among them – pushed for some changes in the tennis community to remove some of her honors. For example, they called for the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne.
Tennis Australia chose not to honour her on the 50th anniversary of her 1970 Grand Slam, something with which Court took public issue. The organization, however, said that it acknowledged her tennis achievements but took exception with her anti-equality and exclusionary views.
Accusations of Discrimination
One of the philanthropic works of Court’s ministry has been to deliver food to people in need. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, Victory Life Centre stepped up its efforts to meet the needs of an increasingly food-insecure community. As food requests grew, Court found that her church was delivering approximately 70 tonnes of food per week.
Earlier in 2020, Court applied for a grant through Lotterywest specifically for the purpose of buying a freezer truck that would aid in the delivery of food.
According to WA Today, Barry Court, Margaret’s husband, attended a meeting about the grant application. Lotterywest told him that it denied the grant because of her religious views regarding same-sex marriage and gender theory. He claimed that the Lotterywest representative told him Victory Life would never receive funding form Lotterywest and noted that Lotterywest supports the WA Pride Festival.
Lotterywest confirmed that its board unanimously voted against a grant for Court’s church, noting that it does have discretion. In addition, Lotterywest made sure to approve grant applications for other organizations that support people in need of emergency food relief, like the Emergency Food Relief Forum.
Margaret Court, however, told the media that her religious beliefs never prohibit her from serving all of the people in need in her community. “We help people of all different faiths, races, beliefs and sexual orientations,” she said. “We would never turn anyone away who needed our help.”
Filing a Complaint
Court filed a complaint against Lotterywest with the WA Equal Opportunity Commission. She claims that her beliefs regarding “biblical marriage” should not prevent aid for her charitable works that do not discriminate.
A number of Christian groups have publicly supported Court’s complaint. Notably, the Australian Christian Lobby wrote to the Premier to complain about the Equal Opportunity Act breach. “The Lotterywest board is not above the law,” said ACL WA Director Peter Abetz. “It is an abuse of the Board’s decision-making power to punish people like Margaret Court for public commentary contrary to their own views.”
A former Lotterywest employee is also speaking up in support of Court’s claim. Crispin Rovere, former Senior Lotteries Policy Officer, claimed that the board had become regular violators of the Equal Opportunities Act, including in the case of Victory Life.
Rovere said, “In my opinion, this is one example of a broader trend of a board not living up to the public sector standards and instead applying personal views.”
He felt so strongly, in fact, that he recorded a 20-minute video of his protestations and the larger issues at play.
It appears that the complaint may turn into a serious court case if Lotterywest doesn’t change its decision about Victory Life and Margaret Court.