Philanthropy: the intelligent use of money

Denis Tricks, AM, Chair, Hugh Williamson Foundation

Sophie Garrett, Project Co-ordinator, University of Melbourne Archives

Describing the aims of the Hugh Williamson Foundation when it began in 1986, Chairman Denis Tricks coined the phrase 'the intelligent use of money'. Not only has money entrusted to the care of the Foundation been invested intelligently, the Trustees embraced the challenge to give strategically to support projects likely to have a lasting impact.

In 2013, as three Original Trustees of The Hugh Williamson Foundation with personal connection to Hugh Williamson approach 27 years of service, a special project was developed to celebrate the Foundation's work so far and explore the question of how to continue Hugh Williamson's approach to philanthropy into the future. The current Trustees have established a tradition of "hands on" attention to causes with originality and competent supporters. The commitment of the Trustees to each project that receives support sets the Williamson Foundation apart from most other philanthropic organisations.

Beginning with projects that continued the philanthropy begun during Hugh Williamson's lifetime, the Trustees supported projects at the National Gallery of Victoria and in Ballarat. They also continued to support the June Allen nursing awards, established by Williamson in 1983 at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Within just a few years, Leadership became a major focus and the Foundation made the first of generous series of gifts to restore Her Majesty's Theatre in Ballarat as well as supporting medical research projects that might not produce results for many years. In supporting these initiatives, the Trustees signalled their intention to fund projects that build capacity, stimulate economic growth and have broad benefits to society.

Just as characteristic is the commitment of the Foundation to support projects that assist the most disadvantaged and marginalised members of society. Organisations working with refugees, the homeless, the aged, former prisoners and young people in crisis have all received grants from the Hugh Williamson Foundation.

The Foundation not only responds to requests for support, it has been proactive, able to focus funding on key initiatives and indeed, participating actively in their development; The Hugh Williamson Community Leadership programs and Leadership Victoria have both evolved from this approach. A growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity led the Foundation to support Professor E. O. Wilson's key note address as part of the Alfred Deakin Lectures in 2005 which stimulated an ongoing dialogue and an environmental education program, Bug Blitz, was born in 2006.

Since establishment of the Foundation, Hugh Williamson's legacy has supported well over 400 projects across Victoria, including 36 at the University of Melbourne. The Baillieu Library and University of Melbourne Archives have been pleased to work with the Foundation to celebrate their work since 1986. It is hoped that this project inspires others to find their own way to actively engage in their communities and consider how they too might demonstrate 'the intelligent use of money'.