As reported last year, Fran Awcock AM retired as a Trustee in November 2016 after nine years of outstanding service. Fran was our first female Trustee. Lately we’ve had equal numbers of women and men as Trustees, and we’re pleased to have maintained this ratio with the appointment of Claire Higgins in February this year. Claire’s stellar career and experience across corporate, health and emergency services is bringing added insight and understanding to our governance and grantmaking.
Our committed Grants team has enabled another year of influential grantmaking. Every one of the 73 approved grants supports our vision for a strong, just and sustainable Victoria – from our smallest grant of $10k to Endeavour Ministries to help with the purchase of required digital devices for financially disadvantaged secondary students, to our largest grant of $586k to Orygen Research Centre to develop and evaluate a web-based employment support package for young people with mental illness.
We’re proud of all our grantees, and one of my greatest pleasures continues to be site visits when I can meet grantees and learn more about the communities directly impacted by our grants. There have been many highlights during the year: for example meeting the outstanding women graduates who have received Macpherson Smith Fellowships at the Melbourne Business School over the past 25 years reinforced the importance of offering access and equity scholarships. Our visit to the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s 120-desk community hub in Epping highlighted the wisdom of providing wrap-around services in one central hub. Our briefing from the team at YSAS and their Deakin University partners reminded us that there is no easy fix to improving drug treatment services for young people in regional Victoria. And Trustees were inspired by our visit and lunch at STREAT, where we saw this tenacious social enterprise at work, and at Sisterworks, where we met a group of migrant women who shared stories and aspirations for their new lives in Australia.
While we attempt to measure and track the impact of our grantmaking, personal stories such as these are the real measure of impact and benefit. I’m reminded of Albert Einstein’s words “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
We are continuously balancing our commitment to grow the Trust’s corpus for the future with our desire to maintain our annual grantmaking levels. I thank the members of the Investment Committee under the astute leadership of its Chair, Cathy Walter AM, and our Investment Executive, Peter Wetherall, for delivering solid results in a challenging economic environment. I’m pleased to report that our corpus has now recovered from the impact of the global financial crisis and that our total return on the corpus was 13.4%, enabling a distribution level for FY17 of $4.3m.
At HMSTrust we pride ourselves on transparency, and I refer you to the Investment and Finance Reviews in this issue for details of those programs. Our CEO, Lin Bender AM, strongly believes that we need to know and understand our past in order to inform our future. In 2014 we initiated our grants database that lists all 4,688 grants approved since 1955 in a searchable format on our website. Last year, our Finance Executive, Glen Thomson, compiled a detailed record of our full financial history since inception in 1951. The compelling graphic representation can be seen in our Remarkable Growth Story featured in this Annual Report, and I recommend that you watch the creative animation that was commissioned to illustrate Glen’s work.
Following careful deliberation, we have included impact investments as a new asset class for our corpus, and post-year-end made a modest investment in the Murray-Darling Basin Balanced Water Fund. This investment satisfies our investment criteria while also providing an intentional, measurable environmental return that aligns with our vision and mission.
Once again I express my sincere appreciation to my fellow Trustees for their time, energy and dedication during the past year and for the insights and expertise they each bring to overseeing HMSTrust’s activities. And as Trustees we are fortunate indeed to have such a skilled and committed staff led by Lin Bender undertaking the management, assessment and conduct of our varied programs. I warmly acknowledge and thank each staff member for their contributions to ‘Helen’s Team’ – because it really is an inspiring team working energetically and co-operatively to achieve the philanthropic intentions of Helen Macpherson Smith.
Philip Moors AO
Chairman of Trustees