The History of Telethon

Telethon has been created by and belongs to the community of Western Australia who over five decades have generously donated more than $268 million to ensure a better life for our children now and in the future.

What’s it all about?

The Channel Seven Perth Telethon, known simply as Telethon, is an annual telethon established in 1968 by philanthropist Sir James Cruthers and Brian Treasure and was produced by TVW 7, a television station in Perth, Western Australia.  There are two major beneficiaries—Perth Children’s Hospital and the Telethon Kids Institute plus many other beneficiaries including Telethon Speech & Hearing. It’s the highest donating Telethon (per capita) in the world, with it surpassing A$100 million in total donations in 2010, and $200 million in 2015.

The event usually runs around 26 hours non-stop, from 6.30pm on a Saturday night in October, broadcasting live across Western Australia on TVW7 throughout the metropolitan area of Perth and the Golden West Network (GWN7) across the rest of Western Australia (Australia’s biggest state by area), and since 2004 has been held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event aims to raise money for its beneficiaries from donations from private citizens and corporations, as well as from special fundraising events held throughout the year and the public auction of two specially built Telethon homes—one in the metropolitan area of Perth and one in the regional area of Western Australia.

Each year, there are also two children who have been chosen to represent all children who benefit from the money raised. From 2010, these two children have been referred to as the “Little Telethon Stars”.

Stars from Seven Network shows such as Home and Away, 800 Words, Sunrise, The Chase Australia, My Kitchen Rules, House Rules, The Morning Show, The Daily Edition, Sunday Night and other Seven Network shows make the journey to the west coast of Australia for the weekend to entertain the audience, visit sick children at Perth Children’s Hospital, take phone calls, and generally participate in the 26-hour marathon broadcast.

International legends

In addition, musical guests are also a big part of the weekend. Over the years, performers during Telethon have included Sir Cliff Richard, Harry Connick Jr., Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Julian Lennon, Sammy Davis Jr., and Celine Dion. In recent years, past finalists from Australian Idol have also made appearances during the event, joining lower profile and local acts.

Telethon began in 1968, when the Trust was established by a group of senior executives at TVW7 Perth.  Before moving to the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, it was previously held at TVW7’s original studios at Dianella, Western Australia.

Michael Jackson appeared on the October 1985 Telethon as part of a deal with Western Australian millionaire Robert Holmes à Court (who owned the television station at the time) to acquire ATV Music Publishing.  Jackson could not perform due to contractual reasons, but he spoke briefly and met the two “Little Telethon Stars”.

Record breaking totals

2007 marked 40 years since Telethon began in Western Australia and raised more than $6.5 million. This was more than double the previous record amount of $3 million.  Telethon 2008 raised a further $7.5 million, with the Australian Federal Government contributing $1.5 million, and an anonymous lottery winner donating $1 million of her winnings to the cause.  The 2008 event also featured an Australian rules football match between old West Coast Eagles players and old Fremantle Dockers players in tribute to Chris Mainwaring, a former West Coast Eagles player and TVW7 sports presenter who had died the previous year.

In 2010, Telethon broke its record set in 2008, raising $9,237,539. This figure was later revised to $10 million as the phones kept ringing after the Telethon finished. In addition, 2010 marked the year in which the total amount collected over the previous 43 years surpassed the $100 million milestone.  This Telethon was touted by Seven Network owner Kerry Stokes as being “the best Telethon ever”.

In 2011, Telethon once again broke the previous record by raising $13,473,159.  In 2012, Telethon broke several records, with the Telethon Home selling prior to auction for a record A$1.2 million. In addition, the final total passing the $15 million milestone for the first time, raising a record $16,805,622. The telecast featured a live performance via video from Elton John who was performing at the Gala Opening of the Perth Arena.

In 2013, Telethon again broke the record, raising $20.7 million, which worked out to be around $8.60 per head of population in WA. The records continued to be broken in 2014, with a total of $25,271,542, due partly to a $20m five year commitment from BHP for funding towards Telethon Kids Institute. In 2015 $25.8 million was raised and then in 2016 $26,290,154 was the final total, which took Telethon’s total raised over 49 years to $231,886,120. In it’s 50th year, the most outstanding result was revealed – a whopping $36,431,381, $10mil more than the previous year bringing the grand total to $268,425,421.

Where the money goes

Through Telethon, you have provided equipment for children in hospital, critical services for children with disabilities and life-changing opportunities for disadvantaged children.  Your tax deductible donations to the Channel 7 Telethon Trust ensure that together, we can continue to ensure that our children have the best quality services and support now and in the future.

The Channel 7 Telethon Trust​

The Channel 7 Telethon Trust is a registered charity, governed by a Board of Trustees.  Telethon’s small team is based at The West Australian and Channel 7 in Perth. Telethon exists on a day to day basis because of the generosity of Seven West Media including Channel Seven Perth, The West Australian & The Sunday Times.  All provide the Trust with tangible and intangible support through infrastructure, facilities, service and professional advice. Plus there are numerous other companies who donate time, resources and equipment to help us keep our costs to an absolute minimum across each year.

The Trust is a West Australian based not for profit charity and has (DGR) Deductible Gift Recipient status in Australia and as such all donors are entitled to a tax receipt and a full tax deduction for donations over $2.