Forrest was born in Perth, Western Australia, the youngest of three children of Judith (née Fry) and Donald Forrest. His father, grandfather (Mervyn), and great-grandfather (David) were all managers of Minderoo Station, which David had established in 1878 with his brothers, Alexander and John. John, Alexander, David, and Mervyn were all members of parliament for periods, with John serving as Western Australia's first premier. Forrest's early years were spent as a jackaroo at Minderoo, located in the Pilbara region south of Onslow. Minderoo was owned by the Forrest family until it was sold in 1998 by his father due to relentless drought and debt, but it was bought back by Forrest in 2009.
Forrest was educated at Onslow Primary School and through the School of the Air before moving to Perth to attend Christ Church Grammar School and then Hale School. He stuttered as a child, which is how he came to develop a relationship with Ian Black, whose father Scotty, an Aboriginal, became Forrest's mentor. Forrest went on to the University of Western Australia where he majored in economics and politics.
After graduating, he worked as a stockbroker at the brokerage houses Kirke Securities and Jacksons. In his early 30s, he became the founding CEO of Anaconda Nickel (now Minara Resources), which has since grown to be one of Australia's single largest mineral exporters with its Murrin Murrin Joint Venture nickel project.
In 2003, he took control of Allied Mining and Processing and renamed it Fortescue Metals Group. He is still a major shareholder of FMG, through his private company, The Metal Group. Since then, the company has grown to possess three times the tenements of its nearest rival in Western Australia's iron ore rich Pilbara region. Fortescue holds major deposits at Mount Nicholas, Christmas Creek, Cloudbreak, and Tongolo. In 2007, he took control of a Niagara Mining, which owns tenements around Laverton, Western Australia. He was nominated as the 2011 Western region Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission took legal action against FMG and Forrest. Although an initial ruling by Justice John Gilmour in 2009 found Forrest hadn't acted in a misleading or deceptive manner, Chief Justice Patrick Keane and judges Arthur Emmett and Raymond Finkelstein of the Federal Court of Australia overturned this decision in 2011, finding that FMG and its Chairman and CEO, Andrew Forrest, had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and breached the continuous disclosure provisions in the Corporations Act, 2001 (Cth), by claiming to have binding contracts with China. The court found that a Chinese framework agreement does not amount to a binding contract, in the natural meaning of the word. If found to have breached director's duties, Forrest faces the possibility of being banned as a director of an ASIC-listed company. FMG appealed against the decision, and in October 2012, the High Court found in favour of FMG and Forrest, reversing the decision of the full bench of the Federal Court and agreeing with the original 2009 decision by Justice Gilmour.
Forrest described the Gillard Government proposed Minerals Resource Rent Tax as "economic vandalism" and a "mad dog's breakfast" that would drive up foreign resource ownership. He stated he would challenge it in the High Court as being unconstitutional, as it discriminates against states, and fails to appropriately capture big producers BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. WA premier Colin Barnett has stated the state government would back constitutional action, admitting the tax had been suggested to him as a "sovereign risk". He was highly critical of the government's expenditure of $38M on an advertising campaign, that was not approved using the usual processes, as it had to "counter mining industry 'spin' about the resources super profits tax". The treasurer Wayne Swan says the big miners will pay at least A$2 billion tax, and wrote to the head of BDO Accounting, who modelled the claims Forrest used, noting they were "utterly unrealistic" and riddled with errors. Treasury concurred that they would be unable to release the assumptions underpinning its forecasts, as they were based on confidential information provided by the big miners. Gillard struck a deal with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata to develop the MRRT after the failed mining tax under Rudd. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie requested the government take Forrest's mining tax grievance to heart.
After buying back the family property, Minderoo Station in 2009 Forrest acquired the adjoining properties, Nanutarra and Uaroo Stations in 2014. Forrest's total pastoral holdings in the Pilbara was then 7,300 square kilometres (2,819 sq mi). Meat processing company Harvey Beef was acquired by Forrest in 2014 for A$40 million. The company is the biggest exporter of beef in Western Australia and used to be the only one accredited to export to China until August 2014. Forrest acquired both Brick House Station and Minilya Station in 2015 for an estimated A$10 million, bringing his total pastoral holdings now to over 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 sq mi).
In June 2011, Allied Medical, of which Forrest owns 46%, was acquired by BioMD for over $20 million.
In 2008 Forrest appeared as the wealthiest Australian according to the Financial Review Rich List, at the time known as the BRW Rich 200, with a net worth of A$9.41 billion. In subsequent years, his wealth has varied significantly as a result of variances in Australian resources sector prices. In 2017, his net worth, according to the Finance Review was A$6.84 billion, and he was ranked as the sixth wealthiest Australian. Meanwhile in 2016, according to Forbes Asia, Forrest's wealth was assessed at US$1.24, making him the 22nd wealthiest Australian.
Forrest and his wife, Nicola, made The Giving Pledge in 2013, stating:
"We hope to help empower individuals and families currently suffering the despair of poverty, slavery and the lack of opportunity for themselves and their children. We feel that if we all do whatever we can with whatever we have, large or small, then each of us will help make our world a more equitable and positive environment for others to thrive in."
During his tenure at Fortescue, Forrest has been recognised for his work on the issue of indigenous disadvantage, using Fortescue Metals Group’s Vocational Training and Employment Centre to equip members of the indigenous communities for employment in the mining industry.
After stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of FMG to reflect that he had been spending more than 50% of his time on indigenous philanthropy, and to hand leadership reins to former head of engineering company Thiess, Nev Power, he became Ambassador of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. Encouraged by the philanthropic work of the Rockefeller Group, Warren Buffett, and Melinda and Bill Gates, Forrest founded the Australian Children's Trust with his wife Nicola in 2001. He also started the GenerationOne project, which was founded as a result of his hero and first mentor outside his father, Scotty Black. Forrest obtained assistance from James Packer and Kerry Stokes, who each donated $2 million, along with the support of their respective media stations, Channel 9 and Channel 7. The organisation works with the Australian Children's Trust to help create sustainable solutions on addressing social disadvantage.
With Kevin Rudd, Forrest launched the Australian Employment Covenant, which campaigns to have businesses hire indigenous Australians, as they could "add value" to Australian businesses because they were "professional and reliable and wonderful" and that there is no reason for indigenous disparity. He stated that he was dedicating time to the Covenant not because he was a "great guy", but that it was "good business". GenerationOne ran a series of television advertisements privately funded by Forrest, Packer and Stokes. Between 2008 and 2011, he obtained 253 business signatories to his covenant. With then Prime Minister Rudd, Forrest planned to employ 50,000 Aborigines. As the two-year deadline approached, estimates put the number of Indigenous job placements under the scheme at around 2,800, clearly well short of the original goal.
Forrest has long opposed welfare dependency for indigenous Australians. As a part of this opposition, he recounted stories of young Aboriginal girls in the Pilbara offering men sex for cigarettes, which caused five indigenous women from the region to collectively lodge a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that the comment was racist and vilified the community.
Forrest has also been publicly accused of engaging in questionable methods of land acquisition, and has also had accusations leveled at his company for failing indigenous trainees at FMG's vocational training centre in Port Hedland.
Template:As at, Forrest had injected A$90 million into his children's charity. Philanthropic activity has included gifts to his alma mater, Hale School; participation in the St Vincent de Paul Society CEO sleepouts; and a gift from the proceeds of the sale of 5,000 tonnes (5,500 short tons) of iron ore to the Chinese earthquake relief effort. In October 2013 it was announced that Forrest was to donate A$65 million towards higher education in Western Australia. At the time the sum was believed to be the highest philanthropic donation in Australia, with most going toward funding scholarships. The Minderoo Foundation, Forrest's private foundation, was renamed as the Minderoo Group is to be expanded to include higher education contributions. The foundation has given A$270 million through the foundation since 2001.
Forrest's daughter, Grace volunteered at an orphanage in Nepal and discovered the children she had looked after had been trafficked to be sex slaves in the Middle East. This distressed Grace and motivated her father to act. Grace Forrest when 21 said at an interfaith meeting held at the Vatican, "I feel like a puppet for hundreds of thousands of girls who are voiceless – if I can stand for them, that is what I'm here to do."
Forrest established the Walk Free Foundation in 2010 to fight modern slavery. In 2013 the organisation launched the Global Slavery Index ranking 162 countries "based on a combined measure of three factors: estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population, a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country". The Index estimates there are 29 million slaves worldwide, roughly half in India and Pakistan.
In January 2014, Forrest announced a deal with Pakistan to do away with more than two million slaves in return for a chance to convert billions of tonnes of cheap coal into much needed energy.
Forrest founded the Global Freedom Network which the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar will lead. The Global Freedom Network will work together to stop all religious faiths from using organisations involved with slavery in their supply chain.
When I heard the news [that all parties had agreed to the venture] I have to admit I became emotional. This is going to change everything. This is set up like a high-achieving, measurement-driven, totally target-oriented company, it's like a hard-edged business. We are out to defeat slavery, we are not out to feel good. This is our mission. You see the complete hopelessness in the eyes [of enslaved people]. It’s like I’m stuck, I will never get help, I am dirt. Then you know that you can’t rest until you free them.
Andrew and Grace Forrest took part in a meeting held in 2014 in the Vatican. There was a Joint Religious Leaders Declaration Against Modern Slavery which was signed by Pope Francis, Mata Amritanandamayi, Justin Welby, Thích Nhất Hạnh, K. Sri Dhammananda, David Rosen, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Abraham Skorka, Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, Basheer Hussain al-Najafi, and Omar Abboud: religious leaders representing forms of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.
We, the undersigned, are gathered here today for a historic initiative to inspire spiritual and practical action by all global faiths and people of goodwill everywhere to eradicate modern slavery across the world by 2020 and for all time. In the eyes of God*, each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity. We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored. Today we have the opportunity, awareness, wisdom, innovation and technology to achieve this human and moral imperative.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby urged consumers to demand more information about whether forced labour was involved in goods they bought.
Forrest is a Christian and is married with three children. His friends include former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former Labor state Minister for Planning Alannah MacTiernan, Liberal state Minister for Indigenous Affairs Peter Collier, and former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, billionaire James Packer, former state Labor premier Brian Burke, deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Australia Julie Bishop, Olympic athlete Cathy Freeman, former athlete Herb Elliot, and billionaire media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes, and billionaire businessman Lindsay Fox.
He is an Adjunct Professor at the Chinese Southern University, a fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, has an Australian Centenary Medal and Australian Sports Medal, and was awarded Citizen of the Year for Regional Development, and Australian Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year. He was formerly the Director of Australia's Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, the West Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy, and Chairman of Athletics Australia. Forrest has previously addressed the Queensland University of Technology, and Christians in the Marketplace.
In 2017 Forrest was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the mining sector, to the development of employment and business opportunities, as a supporter of sustainable foreign investment, and to philanthropy. 1