Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton

I write this reflection in early December, following the recent Annual Meeting at which I formally retired from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. It has been a special privilege and honour to be a Trustee and, for six years, Chairman of Trustees.

Together with my fellow Trustees, I have sought to fulfil Helen Macpherson Smith’s philanthropic vision to make a positive difference to Victoria’s communities.

Helen was herself a generous donor at a time when female philanthropy was uncommon, and her example and the causes she supported have been guiding lights for her Trust. The need and opportunity for philanthropy have changed greatly since Helen’s death in 1951, and HMSTrust has changed accordingly to stay responsive to current social, economic and environmental challenges. Flexibility and speed of response have been especially vital during this disastrous year of Black Summer bushfires and COVID-19.

In the ten years since my appointment I have seen many changes to philanthropic practice and the areas of greatest need. The sector’s peak body, Philanthropy Australia, has been rejuvenated and is closely engaged with advancing philanthropy nationally. Trusts have become more focused in their grantmaking priorities, keener to understand the impacts they are having, more collaborative in their funding, more closely engaged with the organisations and people they support, and more open to making grants which enable recipients to build their capabilities. These and other important aspects of grantmaking have been much in the minds of Trustees and staff as we recently completed our new Strategic Plan for 2021-25.

I was appointed to the Trust in 2010 at the same time as the Hon Rod Kemp AM – and now we have both retired on the same day! I have thoroughly appreciated working with Rod for the past decade and thank him most warmly for his insight, keen views, humour and the wealth of experience he’s brought to our deliberations and his membership of the Investment Committee. During our ten years, HMSTrust has approved 764 grants totaling $45.6 million.

In ‘passing the baton’, I acknowledge and warmly congratulate my successor as Chair, Cathy Walter AM. Cathy has been a Trustee and Chair of the Investment Committee since 2014. It is pleasing and entirely appropriate that for the first time Helen’s Trust now has a female Chair to guide its activities in the years ahead.

I have greatly appreciated the friendship, support and advice over the years from the continuing Trustees Claire Higgins, Alex Gartmann and Bruce Parncutt AO, each of whom has brought vital experience and knowledge to the activities of HMSTrust. And I welcome the three Trustees appointed in 2020 – Andrew Sisson AO, Jan Robins and Danielle Toon. I know that all the Trustees will be enthusiastically maintaining Helen’s vision and values.

Throughout my time the staff have been outstanding in their commitment, energy and passion for the Trust and for philanthropy. Without the expertise of past staff and current members – Glen Thomson, Sarah Bartak, Michelle Springall and Amber Moore – the Trust simply could not have achieved our desire to advance equity of opportunity for all Victorians. They have been led with high distinction by our CEO Lin Bender AM. She and I have worked closely together for the past seven years, in that time dealing with a range of challenges. HMSTrust has been admirably served by Lin’s loyal leadership, her personal standing in the philanthropic community, and her complete dedication to the vision and values of the Trust.

It is a pleasure to thank the Trustees, Lin and all the staff most sincerely for their enthusiasm and achievements. I have been fortunate indeed to have served with them, and I wish the HMSTrust and each of them every success for the future.

Dr Philip Moors AO Chairman 2014 – 2020