Up the ladder HARDER”
Personally, ongoing bitter legal stoushes with two of her four adult children – John Hancock, 42, and Bianca Rinehart, 41 – haven’t helped. There are also disputes with the heirs of Lang Hancock’s former business partner Peter Wright, along with a close friendship with former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.
Last year Rinehart controversially awarded Joyce the National Agriculture and Related Industries Day award and a subsequent $40,000 cheque (which was given back).
“It wasn’t given under the table. It wasn’t given behind closed doors. It was given not only for everyone there to see, but all the media present to see,” she says in her first public defence of the money. “He is a good man.”
Those who orbit in Rinehart’s circle say she is misunderstood. “Before I met Gina all I had heard was negative things about her and I thought she was a mean bitch,” says renowned neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo, whose foundation has received funding from Rinehart. “But now we’ve formed a relationship and she has been incredibly generous not only with her money, which has been given unconditionally and without the desire for kudos, but also with her time and personal support. She has got a good soul and she very much is misunderstood. She’s got a heart and a big heart at that.”
Rinehart says she has not overly publicised Hancock Prospecting’s and her own philanthropic undertakings – from sports and school scholarships to hospitals and cancer charities – because she was raised not to expect applause. “When I was growing up it was not proper to talk about philanthropy, so although we have quietly been building our philanthropic endeavours over the years there is still a little bit of that culture,” she says.
Meanwhile, Rinehart’s eldest son John and his sister Bianca have been engaged in an acrimonious seven-year legal battle with their mother regarding the multibillion- dollar Hope Margaret Hancock family trust, and say that their mother’s philanthropic efforts are mainly to improve her public image. John Hancock is clearly angry. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a swimmer or a son, the moment you don’t do something she wants or give her advice she wants you’re dumped,” Londonbased Hancock tells Stellar while on a family holiday in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. “When you read your own mother’s handwriting in the margins of legal documents… it makes familial relations a tad trying. ”
For her part, Rinehart says she has worked hard her entire life to provide for all of her children but would not be drawn on the legal disputes or who should take over Hancock Prospecting once she steps down. “I certainly have done enough to keep my children comfortable all their lives,” she says. “It wouldn’t be fair on my children to comment [on who should take over the company].”
Love or loathe her, no- one can dispute her steely determination or work ethic. Her ipad never strays far from her hand and she admits to “never not working”.
And Rinehart is clearly not one for flowery sentiments. When asked what advice she’d offer other women, she does not mince her words. “If you want to go further up the ladder what you should be doing is working through lunches, working later,” she says. “Willing to, even on holidays or public holidays, be available. Because what you should be wanting is that you’ve achieved that position yourself – you are worthy of that position. I don’t think [gender] quotas can do that. It’s got to always be, if a woman wants an executive position… they should put in that extra, put in more than their colleagues.”