October 2, 2004
He’s played a blind photographer in Proof, a drag queen in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, a villain in the Matrix and he’s fought the forces of darkness in Lord of the Rings. Hugo Weaving, however, may be about to face his greatest challenge yet.
Weaving and high profile Sydney business identity, Brian Sherman, are just two of the five animal advocates who have agreed to judge the 2004 Voiceless National Grants Program. Ondine Sherman, Dr Dan Ramp and Katrina Sharman are also on the judging panel which met for the first time yesterday.
Voiceless, the Fund for Animals is a philanthropic organisation established by Brian and Ondine Sherman earlier this year to promote respect and compassion for animals. Weaving, who is also an ambassador of Voiceless, is in good company. JM Coetzee, Nobel Prize Literature Winner in 2003 and author of ‘Lives of Animals’ is a Patron of Voiceless.
This year Voiceless is offering $100,000 in grants for projects aimed at improving the lives of animals. The judges will award 10 grants – two $20,000 grants, four $10,000 grants and four $5,000 grants. Non-profit organisations, schools, universities and local councils have all been invited to apply.
Applications for the Voiceless grants program closed last month and according to Ondine Sherman, the response to the program has been overwhelming. Voiceless received more than 140 applications in this, its inaugural year.
Brian Sherman said "We have received high quality applications from a wide range of organisations all over Australia . It is very encouraging to know that there are so many people out there who want to speak up for animals".
Sherman also said: "This is going to be an extremely difficult decision. Animal suffering exists in all aspects of society from farms to scientific institutions to wildlife control. The difficult question is how do you value the life of a dog against the life of a pig or a kangaroo? Of course there will never be an easy answer. The importance of Voiceless is simply in the asking. Our mission is to ensure that all animals are accorded greater value than they have now".
Voiceless expects to announce the winners of the grants late next month. And fortunately for the animals, the Grants Program will be offered on an annual basis. So those organisations that miss out this year will be encouraged to apply again. The Grants Program forms part of an integrated approach by Voiceless to educate the community and create legislative change to protect and defend animals.