This week in Melbourne, the Lord Mayor John So addressed a gathering to celebrate $50 million of gifts, over more than 50 years, from the estates of three extraordinarily benevolent philanthropic women: Alice, Annette and Edith Collier.
When Jenkin Collier arrived in Australia in 1852 he could not have imagined how his three daughters would one day influence the philanthropic sector through their combined generosity.
Jenkin Collier arrived in Melbourne from Wales as a 23 year old immigrant in 1852 and entered the building trade. It was while he was operating a mill to cut sleepers in Goulburn that he got to build the last 85 kilometres of the Melbourne to Echuca line, which he completed months ahead of schedule.
Later, he built the line between Deniliquin and Moama. His visionary plants to build a railway from Dalby to the Gulf of Carpentaria and from Charleville to the NSW border were too radical to be accepted by the Queensland parliament over one hundred years ago, but the government’s vetoing of Collier’s dream of a transcontinental transport infrastructure didn’t dampen his active involvement in the pastoral development of Queensland.
Collier’s commitment to hard work made him money in the boom time of the 1870s. The family lived in Werndew, a 40-room mansion set in four acres on Toorak Road. Collier’s three daughters, Alice, Annette and Edith, went to Presbyterian Ladies’ College. His son Herbert was educated at Melbourne Grammar and later became a Queensland pastoralist.
When Jenkin Collier died aged 91, he left his estate to his family. The three daughters, devoted to each other, never married. They travelled extensively but they lived very unpretentiously, attended church at St John’s regularly and spent only a fraction of the 50,000 pounds income they received annually from their father’s estate. Instead they gave generously to charities and people in need while always insisting on anonymity. Their private secretary of 30 years said they were the “sweetest and dearest souls” she ever knew.
They were also excellent business-women and made their own decisions as to how to invest their income. As a result they left a 1.25 million trust in 1954, the income from which has been donated annually ever since to charities, hospitals and educational institutions in proportions nominated in the sisters’ wills. Those wills decreed that two-fourteenths of the Collier Charitable Fund annual income be given to the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund.
Since then the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Find has received $7.5 million to distribute – one half according to its wisdom and one half to hospitals and charities designated by the Collier Charitable Fund.
During the 50 years since their three gently altruistic sisters died, $50 million has been distributed from their appreciating estate. Last year alone the Collier Charitable Fund distributed almost $3.5 million to worthy causes.
It is an inspiring story, one which all Australians should absorb. A young immigrant committed himself to making Australia a better place. His daughters stayed true to their values and thus have endowed such valuable institutions as our hospitals and the Lord Mayor’s Fund.
The Collier Charitable Fund has the gratitude of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund and countless other bodies concerned with Victoria’s wellbeing for administering the estates of those c conscientious and benevolent Victorian citizens, Alice, Annette and Edith Collier.
Philanthropy Australia gratefully acknowledges the staff and trustees of The Collier Charitable Fund and The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund for permission to use this material.
May. 31, 2007
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