Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Arts and Culture

Equity sits at the centre of our grantmaking, because we believe that all Victorians, now and into the future, should have an equal opportunity, engage in education and work, and have affordable access to relevant services and supports to live a full and healthy life in a sustainable environment; they should be able to participate in their community that will help them reach their full potential.

The Trust’s focus is on those Victorians who are experiencing socio-economic disadvantage due to their geographic location, gender, age, ability or citizenship, and the communities disproportionately impacted by natural disasters.

Our strategic snapshot:

WHAT Six focus areas reflecting current social, economic and environmental issues
WHY To shift the dial across our three impact goals, which will enable us to deliver on our vision for a ‘strong, just and sustainable Victoria’
WHO Five target beneficiary groups we want to support
HOW Five levers that will enable positive change
WHERE Victoria only, with a commitment to supporting initiatives that directly benefit rural and regional Victorian communities
WHEN Four specific grant rounds across the year. See here for detail



  • Supporting the sustainability of the arts sector

A vibrant arts sector leads to increased local participation, encourages public engagement, and develops community identity and a sense of place. Sustainable arts organisations provide career pathways for artists and arts workers, who in turn create and present unique content that is accessible and affordable for diverse audiences across Victoria.

The Trust seeks to support initiatives that build the capacity and capabilities of Victorian arts organisations. COVID-19 has caused unprecedented challenges for Victoria’s arts and cultural sector. Planning for a post-COVID recovery has fast-tracked the need for arts organisations to review their business models, to embrace new ways of working, and importantly, to diversify revenue streams.

We encourage projects that show vision and an innovative approach to solving both entrenched and evolving problems. Initiatives must be based on current sector research that reinforces the community need and gap in service delivery that you propose to fill. Strategic collaboration and partnership, community consultation,  potential for further development and long-term outcomes are all attributes that the Trust values highly.

Our impact goals:

Applications are required to strongly align with at least one of our three impact goals:

  • Building organisational capacity and sustainability
    Stronger organisations are able to deliver stronger outcomes. The impacts of COVID-19 have highlighted vulnerable business models and limited resources that hamper the ability to embrace new ways of working.
  • Changing sector practice
    We seek to support solutions that have the potential to change entrenched sector practices that are no longer addressing the needs of our target beneficiaries across the Trust’s areas of interest.
  • Contributing to systems change
    In order to address the root causes of the social problems that impact the communities we choose to support, we will focus on the components and structures of the systems that drive social change.

In addition to addressing Focus areas and Impact goals, we look for an alignment of vision, purpose and values, and expect the funding opportunities to address two further key elements of our grants framework: Target beneficiaries, and Levers for change.

Our target beneficiaries:

Because our core purpose is equity of opportunity for all Victorians, we apply an equity lens on the following target beneficiary groups experiencing socio-economic disadvantage.

Although many funding proposals will likely address more than one target beneficiary group, we ask applicants to identify the primary group that will directly benefit from the proposed project.

  • Women & Girls
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Migrants & Refugees
  • Communities experiencing inadequate resources and opportunities
  • Future generations impacted by current social, economic and environmental practices

Our levers for change:

Every grant, small or large, one-off or multi-year, contributes to greater equity of opportunity for all Victorians.

Five levers for change have been identified by the Trust as priority mechanisms for delivering on our three impact goals: building sustainable and capable organisations, changing sector practice, and contributing to systems change.

  • Capacity building
  • Innovation
  • Delivery
  • Scaling
  • Advocacy

Where we fund:

The Trust’s legal remit is to fund charitable institutions and purposes in Victoria only.

Rural and regional Victoria is a priority focus for the Trust, reflecting one of the primary sources of Helen’s bequest. For the first time, a minimum 35% annual distribution target, averaged over rolling three-year periods, has been allocated to initiatives that directly benefit rural and regional Victorian communities.

What we look for:

We expect the funding opportunity to be community led, fully scoped, and not replicating or duplicating an existing service or model. We encourage collaboration and partnership and carefully consider the potential for long-term impact against risk. We look for the potential for: leverage; sustainability beyond the funding period; and a commitment to evaluation and dissemination of findings.

Our grant rounds:

We have four grant rounds and funding levels across the year that reflect the needs of grantees so that they can best serve their communities. See Grants Rounds for detail.

Our grantee database and case studies:

View the list of approved grants in our Grantee Database or read case studies of past and current grants. Although all grants approved before July 2021 relate to previous grant strategies, the underlying qualities of our grants, in particular those approved in the past four years, reflect the Trust’s current decision-making principles.