Chairman’s Report

Chairman’s Report

I am delighted to present this 2015 Annual Report of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust at the conclusion of my inaugural year as Chairman.


Last year’s Annual Report commemorated two important milestones in HMSTrust’s history. In the first six months of FY2015 we celebrated those milestones, in particular the retirement of my friend, colleague and mentor, Darvell Hutchinson, after 50 years of outstanding stewardship. The function at Government House to mark this milestone year was a splendid occasion and a significant conclusion to a significant era.

A core strength of Helen Macpherson Smith Trust is our people, and we were delighted to welcome Catherine Walter AM as a Trustee in September 2014. Cathy brings a wealth of experience in governance, finance and investment. She stepped into the role of Chairman of the Investment Committee in December 2014.

There has been an increased community awareness of HMSTrust in the last 12 months, largely due to the new website, the media coverage relating to our milestone year, and the high level of communication and involvement by Trustees and staff in the not-for-profit sector.

From the outset, our investments have been managed in-house, a policy that has stood HMSTrust in good stead, taking our benefactor’s initial 1951 bequest of £275,000 to a corpus of $104.5m at year-end and a grand total of almost $110m distributed in grants. Our investment result for FY2015 has been favourable, although the current economic downturn has been challenging. I commend the deft management of our investment portfolio by our Investment Executive, Peter Wetherall, and the Investment Committee.

Revenue of $8.0m was earned on the corpus, while total expenses have stabilised at $1.4m. HMSTrust reported total comprehensive income for the year of $3.5m after the distribution of grants and HMSTrust transferred $700,000 back to the corpus under the approved power of accumulation. I commend the work of our Finance Executive, Glen Thomson, for his fine work in bringing great clarity to our financial reporting.

Under the leadership of our Chief Executive, Lin Bender, we have delivered another year of carefully considered grantmaking.  The combination of increased social need and diminishing government funding requires us all, grantseekers and grantmakers alike, to work more smartly to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.  This past year, we have further refined our online application and reporting processes, providing us with the capability to capture critical data that better inform our grantmaking strategies and decision-making.  This year, HMSTrust approved 77 grants for a total of $5,069,392 (before withdrawn grants) across our five programs and four grant levels.

The philanthropic sector as a whole is professionalising and responding to the increasing diversity of social challenges. HMSTrust likewise is adapting its policies within the boundaries and spirit of Helen’s will, which is reflected in HMSTrust’s ongoing commitment to responsible stewardship, flexibility, innovation and effective grant making.

A key undertaking this year has been our documentation of a comprehensive Policies Handbook. The role of Trustees brings significant responsibilities at common law, with our benefactor’s will as the cornerstone document and legislation defining the boundaries. In association with this document, a Grants Advisory Committee, comprising four Trustees and the Chief Executive, has been established as a forum for focused discussion on grantmaking strategy, policy and funding recommendations.

The level of commitment demonstrated by each member of staff and by my fellow Trustees is exemplary, and I thank them all most warmly for their dedication and hard work. HMSTrust’s achievements over the past twelve months give me great confidence that in the year ahead we will continue delivering our vision of a strong, just and sustainable Victoria.

Dr Philip Moors AO