Celebrating 30 Years: Issue 3

This edition includes the features - Foundation Focus & Recognising Philanthropists: The Sir Albert Sakzewski Foundation and History of Australian Philanthropy: State Based Philanthropy.

Foundation Focus & Recognising Philanthropists:

The Sir Albert Sakzewski Foundation

For our next philanthropic story we travel north to Queensland. We believe that the Sir Albert Sakzewski Foundation was the first foundation in Queensland to be established by a living person, rather than by will.

Sir Albert SakzewskiSir Albert Sakzewski, 1905-1991

Sir Albert Sakzewski was a fourth generation Australian of Prussian descent. Born in Lowood, he trained as an accountant. He began his practice in Brisbane in 1929 and then practised as a Chartered Accountant until his retirement from active involvement in 1976, although he retained his membership until his death.

He had two keen passions in life; one was as a player of billiards and snooker, which led to him becoming Australian Amateur Billiard Champion in 1932. He elected not to go to London to compete in the Empire championships due to the expense involved during the Great Depression; however, he was Queensland Amateur Billiards Champion six times and Queensland Snooker Champion eight times.

His other great interest was horse racing, which he developed after joining Tattersall’s Club, where he was Honorary Treasurer from 1935 to 1953 and President from 1953 to 1956. In 1941 he became an owner, using the name “Anthony Dare”. Over the years his horses, resplendent in his colours of dark green jacket and purple cap, had more than 100 wins. His racing interests made him a logical choice for the first chairmanship of the Queensland TAB (Totalisator Administration Board) in 1962, and he held the position for 19 years.

Albert Sakzewski was knighted in the 1973 New Year’s honours list for “services to commerce, sport and charity, and his generous philanthropic activities”. He was a generous giver in his lifetime, donating $10,000 to his old primary school in Lowood in their centenary in 1981.

The Foundation and the Research Centre

Rather unusually for the time, Sir Albert established his Foundation during his lifetime, setting it up in 1971. By 1981 he had donated more than $1 million to the Foundation. His hope was that others in as fortunate a position as he would follow his example.

During the first years of operation the Sir Albert Sakzewski Foundation distributed to a wide range of organisations. In 1982 there was a partial change in focus to project funding, and in 1986 the Trustees decided to concentrate on funding a major project, the Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Laboratory (now the Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Centre). The Centre was established in conjunction with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and the Foundation agreed to contribute $1.3 million over a period of five years to establish the Centre and fund some operating costs. The Trustees decided to change focus because they considered it important to fund research into viral diseases in children.

The Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Centre conducts research in medical virology, focusing on paediatric virology. The Foundation continues to fund the Centre, supported by matched funding from Queensland Health. To date the Foundation has provided over $5 million to the Centre.


Thank you to the Sir Albert Sakzewski Foundation for providing information and images used in this piece.

History of Australian Philanthropy:

State Based Philanthropy

Philanthropy in Australia is sometimes spoken of as Victoria-centric. Let’s explore this commonly held belief; is there any truth to this, or is it a myth? Why did this belief develop? And is it still valid, or have things changed?

People who give are in an unusual situation here in Australia; unlike the rest of the Western world, there is no charities commission or public reporting requirement. The history of planned charitable giving in this country is difficult to map, and in some cases information is inaccessible, privately held or unknown.

The commonly held belief that the majority of Australian foundations are located in Victoria has some historical basis, but its extent tends to be exaggerated. The reason behind the Victorian bias is simple: the state of Victoria had extra tax incentives under the Administration and Probate Act 1915. This Act built on an earlier 1907 Act, and established that people leaving money to establish a charitable foundation received a reduction in death duties payable on their estate. The situation was further clarified by the Administration and Probate (Estates) Act (Vic) 1951, which allowed gifts for charitable purposes to be deducted from the final balance that would be subject to duty.

In practical terms, while this did not benefit donors who wished to give during their lifetime, it gave an incentive for them to leave funds in their will to establish a foundation in order to lessen the burden of death duties upon their heirs. Similar provisions did not exist in other states. The extra incentives lasted until 1976 when Victoria abolished death duties. This explains the fact that for much of the twentieth century, Victoria had more testamentary foundations (established by bequest) than other states.

This concentration of foundations in Victoria means that many of the oldest, largest and most established foundations are physically located there. However, it doesn’t mean that they will necessarily only fund within Victoria; many of them can, and do, fund Australia-wide. Additionally, the creation of many new foundations under the Prescribed Private Fund (PPF) legislation, the development of geographically based community foundations, and the expansion of organised corporate philanthropy in Australia, are all homogenising the spread of foundations. The very first PPF was established in New South Wales; there are currently more PPFs in New South Wales than in Victoria, and their numbers Australia-wide are growing.

The first charitable trust in Australia, as far as we are aware, was established in 1886 in South Australia – this was the Wyatt Benevolent Institution, which is profiled in Issue 2 of our 30 Years Celebration. The second oldest is the Queen’s Fund, established in Victoria in 1887. So while Victoria is generally considered to have the honours, South Australia is the true birthplace of Australian philanthropic trusts!

What we do know is that when people decide to establish a charitable foundation, or to leave money in their will to do so, the choices they make about the size and geographic scope of their foundation will depend on many things. Tax incentives will certainly play a part, and always have done. Personal feeling about a particular place will also be a big factor. People tend to give either to the place they know and love, or to the place they feel would benefit the most from their giving. While we cherish our history, it’s exciting to consider the new foundations which are springing up, and where their funding might be spent.

Feb. 02, 2007

 Tags: general, 30 year celebration

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