Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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History of the Trust

Building Helen’s legacy
Since Helen’s original bequest of £275,000 in 1951, the Trust has grown significantly over the decades, enabling millions to be distributed to support Victorian communities.

1951 – 2001: the first 50 years
Under Helen’s Australian will, a perpetual trust was established to benefit charitable institutions based in Victoria. The Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (known until 2001 as the Helen M Schutt Trust) was created in 1951, the year she died.

By 1964, both the executors and founding trustees (John Bishop and Frank Druce) were succeeded by John Davis OBE (in 1961) and Darvell Hutchinson (in 1964). For Darvell, a 33-year-old partner of chartered accountants Wilson Bishop & Henderson, it was the beginning of an extraordinary 50-year involvement with the Trust. He became Chairman in 1969 following John Davis’ death, and was joined by Barry Hutchins as fellow trustee.

What became a 37-year trustee partnership was to have a lasting influence on the direction and future, not just of the Trust, but of philanthropy in Australia. Both men had an impressive breadth of business and investment experience and a strong commitment to the community, taking on roles as voluntary board members and office bearers with a number of charitable organisations. Darvell and Barry were ultimately honoured with the Order of Australia for their service to the community. Darvell was appointed a Member of the Order in 1994, and Barry was awarded a Medal of the Order in 2000.

2001 – a landmark year
In 2001 at a celebration held in Queen’s Hall, Parliament House, the Helen M Schutt Trust was re-named the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. The new name honoured both sides of Helen’s family, and the wealth they each created which became the primary source of Helen’s legacy to Victoria.

As times changed, law reforms affected the Trust’s operations, and new social challenges emerged and with them, new community need. Trustees widened the range of eligible grant seekers, gave consideration to rural and regional Victoria, supported innovative projects and encouragde grant proposals which involved partnerships with government or other community groups.

While grants were still given to meet immediate needs, by 2002 the trustees had decided to engage more actively in strategic philanthropy and give extended support to projects which could have long-term impact on the Victorian community.

In July 2008, trustees made a grant of $5.75 million to establish the Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation, now known as Youthrive Victoria. The organisation was an independent, regional-based entity to fulfilling the Trust’s vision of a thriving, confident rural Victoria driven by inspiring leaders. Youthrive Victoria develops young rural leaders by improving rural educational opportunities, particularly for those transitioning to tertiary education and mentoring. Many Youthrive participants are contributing back to their communities through volunteering and leadership.

Capital accumulation
For the first 21 years of the Trust, grant making was necessarily conservative because trustees were directed, under the terms of the Will, to accumulate the income on two-thirds of the capital. By 1972, Helen’s original bequest of £275,000 had grown to $3.9 million.

By 1987 the Trust’s funds stood at $39.7 million. Darvell and Barry agreed to take early retirement as partners of chartered accountants Pannell Kerr Forster and devoted more time to the development and management of the Trust. A public office was opened and the first employee was engaged on a part-time basis.

In the late 1980s the Trust was instrumental in the strategic expansion of the organisation now known as Philanthropy Australia. Darvell was a council member of Philanthropy Australia from 1985-1994 and served as president in 1987 and 1988. He was widely recognised for his contribution to the increased professionalism and development of the organisation, and for raising the profile of philanthropy in Australia. After 50 years at the Trust’s helm, Darvell Hutchinson retired.

Meanwhile, the Trust continued its broad support for Victorian communities. In 2001, the 50th anniversary of Helen’s death, the Trust had distributed close to $37 million to Victorian communities and funds stood at more than $58 million. The growth in funding capacity of the Trust expanded the trustees’ workload, and prompted an increase in the number of trustees. Seven trustees currently hold office.

On 1 February 2022, Darvell M. Hutchinson AM, a visionary leader in the philanthropic community in Victoria passed away. Darvell described his fifty years with the Trust as “a mere drop in the ocean”, however his legacy will be forever intertwined with that of the Trust, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for the care and diligence he brought to bringing Helen’s legacy to life.