Amy Gillett Foundation for cyclist safety to close after federal funds cut off

<span>The Amy Gillett Foundation was set up after she was killed in a car accident in Germany in 2005.</span><span>Photograph: CYCLINGNEWS.COM/AIS/EPA</span>
The Amy Gillett Foundation was set up after she was killed in a car accident in Germany in 2005.Photograph: CYCLINGNEWS.COM/AIS/EPA

The Australian cycling safety advocacy body behind the successful A Metre Matters campaign is being wound up after federal government funding was discontinued.

The Amy Gillett Foundation was established in 2006 after the death of Gillett, a former Olympic rower who had switched to track and road cycling. The 29-year-old was training with the Australian national team in Germany when she and her teammates were hit by a car.

The foundation has been responsible for several cycling safety advocacy campaigns, including efforts to enshrine in law the requirement that drivers leave at least one metre’s distance while passing a cyclist. The campaign began in 2009 and ended in 2021, when Victoria became the final state to update its road laws.

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The foundation has also overseen a scholarship program for emerging female road cyclists. Recent recipients have included former national champion Sarah Gigante and two-time world time trial silver medallist Grace Brown. It puts its name to an annual participation ride, Amy’s Gran Fondo, along the Great Ocean Road.

In a letter to stakeholders, seen by Guardian Australia, foundation chair Lisa Jacobs wrote that “regretfully, the board has concluded that ongoing operation of the foundation is no longer sustainable in the absence of new federal government funding”.

The news was first reported by cycling website Escape Collective.

The foundation received $6m in the 2022 budget, with a program of work formally launched in March last year by the assistant minister for infrastructure and transport, Carol Brown.

Liquidators Shaun Matthews and Rachel Burdett of Cor Cordis have been appointed to wind up the foundation. In a statement, they said: “As has been the experience of many not-for-profits, the past few years have been lean, and securing philanthropic funding has become more complex.” They added that they would review the foundation’s financial position before “we commence winding up the affairs of the foundation in an orderly manner”.

The foundation was approached for comment but did not respond before publication. The Australian Sports Commission declined to comment.

The assistant minister, Senator Brown, said in a statement to the Guardian that to date $4.5 million had been paid out from the $6 million earmarked for the foundation’s delivery of the Safe Roads for Safe Cycling Program.

“Grants need to be spent in accordance with conditions agreed as part of the funding process. The Department has been in discussions with the foundation since before December over the provision of necessary information as part of the conditions of the grant. Those discussions have been ongoing.

“The Albanese Government is committed to creating safer environments for all road users nationwide.”

The foundation’s bright pink branding has become commonplace at cycling events, while it built strong relationships with federal, state and territory governments (assisted by influential board members, such as former chair and Liberal party heavyweight Mark Textor).

But in recent years questions have been raised over the foundation’s continued impact, particularly after the completion of the A Metre Matters campaign. Several other bodies operate in the advocacy ecosystem, including Bicycle Network and Bicycle NSW. In 2020, Bike Melbourne asked in a blog post: “Has the Amy Gillett Foundation outlived its use by date?

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AusCycling, the peak body for the sport of cycling, told the Guardian it would consider the implications of the foundation’s closure for its own advocacy programs and initiatives. AusCycling and the foundation were partners on some projects, but did not have a financial relationship; AusCycling indicated on Friday it had not been approached by the foundation in relation to its financial situation.

AusCycling chief executive Marne Fechner said she was “disappointed” at the news, adding that the Metre Matters campaign would be “a continued reminder of the Foundation’s two-decade legacy”.

Amy Gillett Foundation data indicates that more than 20 cyclists are seriously injured and hospitalised across the country every day, while a cyclist is killed every 10 days on Australian roads.

In her letter, Jacobs implored continued efforts to address these statistics.

“While the work of our foundation will cease, the urgent need to improve cyclist safety continues,” she wrote. “Despite the advances that have been made in road safety, design, infrastructure and driver and cyclist behaviour, the goal of zero cycling fatalities is yet to be achieved.”