Philanthropy: the intelligent use of money
4th Jul 2013 - 15th Sep 2013 at Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne
This exhibition celebrates the history of the Hugh Williamson Foundation and its lasting impact through supporting over 400 projects across Victoria.
A selection of funded projects 1986-2013.
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'.
Don't forget Ballarat!
Hugh Williamson and the Foundation he set up had an abiding interest in the Art Gallery of Ballarat long before I became its Director in 2004. However, it was only after taking up the position that I started to have a feeling for the way in which the Hugh Williamson Foundation operated and the extent of its benefaction, not just to the Gallery but to the region.
In addition to truly generous contributions towards the building program of 1999–2001, the Art Gallery of Ballarat has benefitted from financial support from the Foundation in four distinct areas.
Firstly, support from the Foundation has enabled a number of major acquisitions, including the work by Robert Clinch, Gracenotes, which features in our publication Ballarat in Pictures.
Funding from the Foundation has enabled the Gallery to present itself to the local community. Some of this funding was still unspent when I appeared on the scene, and I was amazed at the latitude given to spend those funds. 'We entrusted the money to the Gallery to build new audiences and we expect you to find the means to do just that…' was the advice I received. For several years this funding enabled us to expand our programs for children and to run concerts and other events in tandem with our exhibition program, notably a series of poetry readings inspired by the Eureka Rebellion and held during the life of our Eureka Revisited exhibition at the beginning of 2005.
The trustees of the Hugh Williamson Foundation have a broad interest in the preservation of cultural heritage throughout Victoria and have frequently supported the conservation of works of art both in this institution and in others. A grant from the Foundation in 2008 saw the conservation of the frame of one of the Gallery's earliest acquisitions, Gathering the Herd: Isle of Skye by Alfred Williams. This particular project was used by the Gallery as an exemplar for its Adopt an Artwork program, which called on private individuals and corporate entities from this community to appreciate the enormous changes that could be wrought from making a financial contribution towards the conservation of works of art.
The initial grant was like the planting of a seed. It became a catalyst for change. The community has now contributed to more than $300,000 of conservation works in the Gallery's collection and other philanthropic bodies have been stimulated to support the program.
The fourth area of active support has been funding for exhibition catalogues. Regional galleries across the state make a valiant attempt to contribute to the art scholarship of this nation by mounting exhibitions on a range of themes and by presenting surveys and retrospectives for specific artists. Without the support of the Hugh Williamson Foundation, a number of the Art Gallery of Ballarat's catalogues would not have been possible. While an exhibition might be excellent, it is a passing thing. The catalogue is the lasting record.
The trustees of the Hugh Williamson Foundation have shown an extraordinary interest in the life of this community. Trustees are regular visitors to Ballarat and have a genuine interest not just about how their projects are faring, but about the general well-being of the institutions they have chosen to support. They encourage dialogue and would think nothing of being approached on an informal basis to act as a sounding board on any particular project that might be in the offing.
The Gallery is not the only beneficiary of Hugh Williamson's injunction not to forget Ballarat. Her Majesty's Theatre and the Mechanics' Institute have been utterly transformed by major projects of renovation and refurbishment extensively supported by the Foundation. These venues are integral to the cultural and economic life of the city. The Ballarat Mechanics' Institute, with its charter to be a place where ordinary citizens can meet in an intellectually stimulating environment, would undoubtedly have been dear to Hugh Williamson himself. The Foundation has helped to save the building from a slow death. Her Majesty's Theatre has been part of the cultural life of Ballarat since it first opened its doors in 1875. Hosting a diverse range of professional and amateur performances, it is the home of the Royal South Street Society and its famous and venerable Competitions. The Royal South Street Society was specifically named by Williamson as an object of consideration by the Trustees of his Foundation. It seems Williamson was particularly interested in the Brass Band competitions and indeed this particular aspect of performance has been a regular beneficiary of funding.
The Williamson Foundation is not only a supporter of the arts, it has supported projects in education, health and community wellbeing across the Goldfields region. The impact of this support is clearly seen in Clunes, a fascinating and picturesque old gold mining town 30 kilometres north of Ballarat. While much of this regeneration can be attributed to the dynamism and flair of people from within that community, it is no surprise to discover that the Hugh Williamson Foundation has been involved from the very beginning of this period of renaissance.
Working in a regional centre can have its tough moments and there is rarely enough funding to do all the things that one wants to do. One often gets told that compared to roads, drains and rubbish, one's work is not vital or even worthwhile. That was not the thinking of Hugh Williamson and it certainly has never been the philosophy of his Trustees. The work they have done within this community has been transformative in the most wonderful way and it has been my great pleasure and privilege to have worked with such urbane and intelligent individuals.
Director, Art Gallery of Ballarat
Hugh Dean Thomas Williamson CBE 1901-1985
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.