Hugh Dean Thomas Williamson CBE 1901-1985

Vicki Fairfax

For many people Hugh Williamson must seem to be the archetypal "self-made" man. Indeed Williamson himself would have probably considered himself to be so. A man who begins his working life at the age of 16 at the Ballarat Banking Company and over the next forty-four years works his way steadily up through the ranks of the banking industry to become General Manager of one of the most prestigious banks in the country, the ANZ Bank, must surely be a man of high principles and singular vision.

Williamson, however, would probably not have seen these characteristics as anything unduly remarkable. His early years growing up in country Victoria, witnessing first-hand the difficulties of rural life exacerbated by a world war that had stripped whole towns of their young men and the long, lean years of the Depression were to define the way he lived the rest of his life. Hard work, constancy, eschewing waste of any kind and a hunger to seize opportunities wherever they presented themselves were the principles that informed his life and his career and which, in time, gave rise to a commitment to others and to organizations and communities in which he saw the same ideals.

Hugh had always admired the Salvation Army and their egalitarian structure and no-nonsense approach to helping the homeless and needy. In 1968, as a committee member, he helped establish the first Red Shield Appeal and in 1972 he became the Army's first campaign manager, setting up scholarships and arranging for senior officers to attend business management training at the Australian Administrative Staff College at Mt Eliza, a move that foreshadowed the establishment of the Williamson Community Leadership Program in 1989. Hugh received the Salvation Army's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal in 1978 and held the rank of Honorary Colonel.

Hugh was also a founding Trustee of the William Buckland Foundation, an association that strongly influenced his decision to set up his own Foundation in the year before he died. He also spent 21 years as the indispensable honorary treasurer to the Building Committee and Trust of the Victorian Arts Centre (Arts Centre Melbourne) where he worked closely with Martin Carlson and Denis Tricks through the tumultuous years of the Arts Centre's construction.

In establishing the Hugh Williamson Foundation in his Will, Hugh directed that it should further those aspects that he had helped to nurture both personally and professionally throughout his life namely; supporting and strengthening communities in Melbourne and rural Victoria; establishing educational opportunities and building leadership skills in young people; helping the aged and economically and intellectually disadvantaged; and finding ways to enhance the cultural life of all Victorians.

Since the establishment of the Foundation the Trustees appointed by Hugh Williamson in 1986, all longstanding friends of his, have always held firmly to these wishes while extending the reach of the Foundation's work. You will discover in the exhibition and in this report just some of many hundreds of recipients of Hugh Williamson Foundation support ,each one testimony to the sensitivity and wise judgment of the four men, Denis Tricks AM, Martin Carlson OAM, Harry Carrodus and the late Dr Malcolm Menelaus, "the chosen few", to whom, almost thirty years ago, Hugh Williamson entrusted his most enduring and cherished aspirations.