Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Pinnacle Foundation launches

The Pinnacle Foundation launches in Sydney on Tuesday November 17th.

Superchilled interviews Founding Director Sean Linkson:

Superchilled: What will the The Pinnacle Foundation actually do?

Sean Linkson: It will provide educational scholarships to high-potential, disadvantaged LGBT youth who might not otherwise be able to achieve their educational goals, and hence their full potential.

SC: Why was it started?

SL: As our website ( says, way too many young LGBTs fail to achieve their full and glorious potential because prejudice and hate impose disadvantage and impediment. The Pinnacle Foundation aims to remove impediment and create advantage. Pinnacle is about creating an enduring legacy that will produce wonderful, fully-expressed and educated LGBT people who will make a mark on their generation in ways that we can’t even imagine.

SC: What made you get involved?

SL: We were inspired by an organisation in the USA called The Point Foundation that does a similar thing. We thought why not do the same in Australia?

SC: What has been your role in The Pinnacle Foundation?

SL: Along with the love of my life Philip and dear friend Paul, we are founders and directors of Pinnacle – all volunteer of course. As a charity we seek to put as much of our donations to helping Pinnacle Scholars, that’s why no one takes a salary and all goods and services are obtained pro-bono wherever possible. There’s a whole bunch of corporations that have been very generous to us. Paul, Philip and I can’t do everything of course so we are helped by an amazing group of volunteers on our management committee. Check them out under ‘Meet the team’ on the website – they’re all incredible.

SC: How long has it taken to get up and running?

SL: It’s taken four years to get to this point. When you’re asking people to donate time and resources, plus the fact we all have busy day-time jobs, things take a little longer. It’s a labour of love setting up a legal entity with a constitution, registering it as a charity then securing tax deductibility status from the government. Then there’s websites to build and lots of processes and protocols around how we treat applications, support scholarship recipients, screen mentors etc.

SC: In your own life, who has been your most inspiring person?

SL: I see lots of inspiring people every day in my job as a head-hunter, but I also find that ‘everyday’ people can be inspiring too. I love what Matthew Mitcham has done in sport (and Matt, if you read this we’d love you as a Patron!). Michael Kirby will be well known to your Australian readers and he ranks up their on the world stage as a humanitarian. We are very privileged to have Michael as our Patron.

SC: I understand there will be mentoring provided through the foundation in addition to scholarships. Have you ever had a mentor? What influence did they have on you?

SL: Yes, mentoring is a really important adjunct to the funds we provide for the scholarship. Money can pay fees but doesn’t teach you life lessons – that’s where the mentors come in. It’s all part of maximising the potential of our Pinnacle Scholars. Personally, I count anyone who has helped me face the world as a proud, out man as a mentor. That includes the obvious like my parents but I have learned so much from some of my bosses, my friends, various ‘gurus’, godparents, grandparents. I’ll never forget my grandfather telling me as a 9 year old to “never hate anything”. Those three words hit me like a train even then and to this day, some 43 years later, form the very foundation of my life. Another mentor delivered what I call “the line of my life”. He said, “Your life is the universe’s gift to you, what you do with it is your gift to the universe”.

SC: Who will the official mentors be?

SL: We haven’t nominated any mentors yet but we have a rigorous selection process in place that includes extensive probity checks. We aren’t going to let just anyone near our Scholars!

SC: Who can apply for a scholarship / assistance?

SL: You’ll find our criteria on the website, but basically you have to be an Australian citizen over 16 years old and a permanent resident. Applicants must also:

  • Identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer or Transgender and because of this:
  • Have personal or social circumstances which provide significant challenges to the person completing their education; or
  • Have been marginalised due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; and
  • In the opinion of the Selection Committee:
    • Takes their studies seriously and has shown academic achievement during their years at school; and
    • Can demonstrate their commitment to completing Year 12 , a tertiary degree or vocational training;
    • Demonstrates leadership skills, has good academic results and wants to make a difference in the world; and
    • Is proud to stand up for the LGBT rights and is dedicated to the LGBT community.

Our first scholarships will be issued in Sydney but we hope to go national in coming years.

SC: Many of superchilled readers are outside Australia, are scholarships available to them?

SL: No. If you’re in the USA you can always try The Point Foundation.

SC: Is there an age limit?

SL: You must be at least 16 and less than 25.

SC: Are there really that many people out there who will need the assistance you provide?

SL: You’ve only got to look how many young people are helped by youth support organisations like Twenty10 orYouth Off The Streets in Sydney. Literally hundreds of young people are marginalised every year because of their sexuality – kicked out of home, bullied at school, bashed and abused by their peers. There are horrible statistics around youth suicide rates that correlate directly to unresolved gender identity issues and sexual marginalisation.

SC: When can people apply?

SL: Applications for 2010 scholarships are being taken now and must be in before end of November.

SC: Who funds the foundation?

SL: Pinnacle is funded purely by tax-deductible donations. Our aim is to get the fund to $5million and use the interest to fund multiple scholarships every year. PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY! We’ll love you forever.

SC: If we jump ahead to 2020, what would you like to be able to say about the Foundation's activities & achievements?

SL: In 2020 we will see a Pinnacle Scholar as President or Prime Minister of Australia. The first openly gay or lesbian leader of our country, and they would have won office in a landslide. We will see Pinnacle Scholars as leading lights in every profession and in every walk of life. They will take over the world and fill it with love and light. Now that’s not too much to ask is it? Lighting the spark within is what we do.

If you're keen to apply for a scholarship or know someone who might be, or alternatively if you think you might make a good supporter, check out the details at


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