Largest Ever Personal donation to Australian Cerebral Palsy Research
Mr Neil Balnaves donated $450,000 to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation on 30 September for a
world-first research program to help find a cure for cerebral palsy.
Mr Balnaves is director of The Balnaves Foundation, a private philanthropic organisation
established in 2006. His donation is the largest personal donation ever received by the Cerebral
Palsy Foundation for research.
The $450,000 donation will be used over three years to fund The Balnaves Cerebral Palsy
Research Program, which will include the setting up of the world’s first early diagnostic clinics
The clinics will aim to identify cerebral palsy early in a baby’s life, as early as 12 weeks old.
These newly diagnosed babies will then participate in a series of trials aimed at lessening the
degree of brain injury and optimising brain repair in the early years.
CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Mr Rob White, said The Balnaves Cerebral Palsy
Research Program was leading the world by setting up a framework for trailing neuroregenerative
therapies and early intervention programs as they become available.
“Naturally occurring brain stem cells are active until a child is about 22 months of age which
provides a small window of opportunity for the brain to repair itself,” Mr White said. “However,
most of this window of opportunity is lost for children with cerebral palsy, because the diagnosis is
made too late, when the child is around two years old, and has failed to meet early milestones
such as sitting and walking.
“By diagnosing babies as young as 12 weeks old, we will be able to trial new brain regeneration
therapies which show promise for lessening the severity of cerebral palsy. This program’s active
surveillance for five years will enable us to truly evaluate, for the first time, the long-term benefits
of these emerging therapies.”
Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability affecting Australian children. One in 400
babies is diagnosed with CP. There is no known cure, and for most the cause is unknown.
Cerebral Palsy Foundation Governor, Ms Anne Keating said “Australia is at the forefront of global
research into the cause and prevention of cerebral palsy. We believe The Balnaves Cerebral
Palsy Research Program could significantly improve the outcome for babies diagnosed with CP.
Learnings from this project could bring us one step closer to understanding the causes of this
Neil Balnaves’ personal experience of having polio as a child has fuelled his passion to help
researchers find a cure for cerebral palsy.
“As a child I spent many months undergoing therapy learning how to reuse my limbs and
muscles, so I come into this with a degree of understanding about what these kids are going
through,” Mr Balnaves said.
“I was horrified to learn that although cerebral palsy costs the Australian community almost $3.65
billion annually, the Australian Government spends less that $1 million a year on research. I’m
just one person and this single donation has increased the government’s funding by almost 50
Mr White said, “The Balnaves Foundation should be congratulated for funding this exciting
research program which will lead the world closer to finding a cure for cerebral palsy.”
The Balnaves Foundation provides philanthropic support to charitable enterprises
across Australia. Dispersing over $2 million annually, the Foundation supports eligible
organisations that aim to create a better Australia through education, medicine and the arts with a
focus on young people, the disadvantaged, and Indigenous communities.
Jennifer Durante – Media Coordinator – 02 9479 7257 / 0419 802 602
Released on 2 Oct 2009