Mining magnate Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest's Minderoo Foundation will donate up to $160 million to address Australia's extreme shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), with the first plane loaded with supplies on its way to Perth today.
The foundation has joined forces with Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) - which is 30 per cent owned by Forrest's Minderoo Group - to procure and distribute the life-saving medical supplies and equipment.
The first flight was due to depart from Shanghai today, with two more flights are due to arrive on Friday and Saturday this week. Together they are expected to bring more than 600 cubic meters of supplies with a total weight of more tha 90 tonnes.
This includes more than one million N95-equivalent face masks, 400,000 surgical masks, 2.3 million medical-grade gloves, 100,000 nasal swabs, 200,000 medical coveralls, 10,000 medical goggles, 5,000 touch-less thermometers and over 33 ICU grade ventilators.
Forrest says Fortescue's deep and enduring relationships with China are what allowed the foundation to supercharge procurement efforts, on behalf of and in collaboration with the Western Australian and Federal Governments.
"Unprecedented times cannot be met with a precedented response," says Forrest.
"The trusted relationships, procurement expertise and logistics knowledge of the FMG and Minderoo Foundation teams, have been fundamental in rapidly securing this vital equipment."
He says the country is facing a threat not seen in our lifetimes.
"China's Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Ambassador Cheng, and the Chinese people have been great mates to Australia," says Forrest.
"They are now doing all they can to help us in our hour of need. I thank the People's Republic of China for protecting our critical medical orders in the face of intense pressure from other nations.
"Without this, there would be no plane loads of equipment that we celebrate today for our first responders and suffering Australians."
Minderoo Foundation co-chair Nicola Forrest says the equitable distribution of supplies will be coordinated with WA Health across key stakeholders in primary and aged care, private and public hospital systems, and other front-line services based on the areas of greatest need.
"We are working with the WA Government, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), WA's private hospitals, National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, National Incident Room and Aspen Medical to determine how we can best meet projected surges in demand for critical supplies," she says.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook has thanked Minderoo Foundation and Fortescue for their "extraordinary support" in finding these "incredibly difficult to obtain supplies" for WA's broader health system, other stakeholders and frontline staff.
"To allow this generous commitment to continue to scale, the WA Government will reimburse Minderoo Foundation at cost for the supplies purchased so that Minderoo Foundation can further leverage its incredible commitment of up to $160 million over the coming weeks and continue to source these critical medical supplies for Australia," says Cook.
Updated at 3:46pm AEDT on 1 April 2020.