Celebrating 30 Years: Issue 2

This edition includes the features: Philanthropy Australia’s History: Spotlight on 1988 and Foundation Focus: Wyatt Benevolent Institution.

Philanthropy Australia’s History: Spotlight on 1988

1988 was a significant year for Philanthropy Australia – then called the Australian Association of Philanthropy. After a decade without permanent staff, 1988 saw the appointment of Marion Webster as our first Executive Director with the assistance of a grant of $30,000 from the Reichstein Foundation – a generous contribution which enabled the association to deliver a more consistent service base to members with staffing for 2.5 days a week. Office space at that time was provided by the Helen M Schutt Trust (now the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust).

Our membership base in 1988 was a mere 45 organisations – less than one-sixth of our current member levels! Of those 45, it’s a delight to note that 30 are still members 19 years later in 2007 – although some of them have different names now, and still others have merged or closed down.

1988 also saw the Association make a submission to a major government inquiry - the Legal and Constitutional Committee of the Parliament of Victoria’s inquiry into the law relating to charitable trusts. The inquiry’s report, released in 1989, recommended that the Association be “encouraged, assisted and funded” to establish an information bank on charitable trusts and to promote self-regulation and voluntary registration.

During the year, a workshop was held to educate trustees and professional staff about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS; members also benefited from a talk from a representative of the Ford Foundation and a talk on charitable trusts and the Income Tax Assessment Act. Grants and appointments made throughout the year were highlighted, and the Association pleaded with non-Victorian members for news and announcements!

Finally, showing us how things have changed over the years, Marion Webster responded to a media article which implied that there was no private philanthropy in Australia. In 1988 there was evidently little media interest in philanthropy, as only one media article was highlighted – a very different situation to 2007, when articles mentioning philanthropy happen on almost a weekly basis. It’s also noted that in the weeks after Marion’s response letter was published in the Australian Financial Review, 12 enquiries were made by groups and individuals seeking information about the establishment of a foundation – despite the lack of media interest at the time, Australians were as eager to contribute as they are today!

Foundation Focus: Wyatt Benevolent Institution

As far as we can ascertain, the very earliest philanthropic funding organisation in Australia is the Wyatt Benevolent Insitution. As the oldest trust in Australia, we thought it would be most suitable as the first Foundation Focus for our anniversary celebration.

Dr William Wyatt

Dr William Wyatt was born in Plymouth, England, in 1804 and studied medicine, becoming honorary surgeon to the Plymouth dispensary. He migrated to Australia in 1837 and briefly practised medicine in South Australia, purchasing six town acres in the first land sale held in Adelaide in May 1837 which – along with some purchases of rural land - became the basis for his fortune as Adelaide prospered. He served in a variety of government positions, including Protector of Aborigines, State Coroner and South Australia’s first inspector of public schools. Wyatt also took a number of honorary positions and board memberships; he was a governer of the Adelaide public library, on the board of the Botanic Gardens, and chairman of the Adelaide Hospital.

Dr Wyatt’s only child to survive infancy was murdered in 1872, leaving him without heirs; in 1881 he arranged for the incorporation of a Trust. Dr Wyatt died on 10 June 1886, leaving the bulk of his estate (after some legacies and annuities) to the Wyatt Benevolent Institution, which began operating that same year under the guidance of Dr Wyatt’s chosen governers.

The Trust

The Wyatt Benevolent Institution has provided financial assistance to South Australians in need for over 100 years. Its first distribution, in 1888, was that of two pounds per month to 26 beneficiaries. In the 2005/06 financial year, over 2000 South Australians were beneficiaries of grants, scholarships, no interest loan subsidies and subsidised housing totalling $1.15 million. The Institution is required to support only South Australian individuals/families in financial need, and this has led to a range of innovative grant programs which give Wyatt a distinctive character alongside other Trusts in Australia.

Wyatt does not accept applications from individuals for financial assistance grants, but relies upon qualified social workers, student support officers, financial counsellors and other welfare and health care professionals.

A forthcoming book, Keeping a Trust by Dr Carol Fort, will focus on Dr Wyatt and the history of the Institution. We look forward to this work on a great Australian philanthropist.


The Wyatt Benevolent Institution Inc, 2006 Annual Report


Australian Dictionary of Biography Online

Jan. 24, 2007

 Tags: general, 30 year celebration

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