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Women in philanthropy

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The history of philanthropy in Australia is rich with the charity of women with vision and generosity; many of whom have used their legacies to improve the lives of other women and girls. Despite some of the oldest and most well-known charitable trusts in Australia having been established by women, their contribution has often been overlooked. Perpetual is proud to have played a role in this philanthropic history, as we share wonderful stories about the generous contributions of Australian women.



Perpetual’s oldest charitable trust, Yaralla Cottages, was established in 1897 by Edith Campbell-Walker. It maintained a group of cottages for the accommodation of women in need throughout NSW.

The Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundations were established in 1970 by Vera Ramaciotti to support biomedical research. The Foundations started with $6.7 million and have donated more than $57 million to biomedical research.

The Portia Geach Memorial Award was established in Florence Kate Geach’s will in 1961, in memory of her sister Portia Geach, an artist. The Award celebrates Australia’s female portrait painters and has played an important role in developing the profile of female artists in Australia. Originally a £12,000 fund, the first winner, Jean Appleton, was awarded £1,000 in 1965. The prize is now worth $30,000.

Harrie Sylvia Mallet, known affectionately as Todds Barrett, was born in 1907 and died in 2002. An extremely successful businesswoman, she established heavy equipment industries in Sydney, built a strong share and investment portfolio, and had a great love of animals. She established The Mabel and Franklin Barrett Trust in honour of her parents and gave extensively to animal welfare, social welfare and medical research.

The Miles Franklin Literary Award supports authors writing about Australian life, and is perhaps one of the most recognised charitable trusts established by a woman. The Miles Franklin Literary Award was established in 1957 through the will of writer Stella Miles Franklin. The winner of the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award will receive $60,000 in prize money.




Many charitable trusts managed by Perpetual promote women’s interests and encourage the contribution of women in the community and a growing number of our clients recognise that investment in women and girls has an enormous broader impact on the community.

The Australian Women Donors Network supports philanthropists by providing research data on issues confronting women and girls in key social areas. They also connect donors with projects to drive transformative change. “Numerous global research reports demonstrate the pivotal role that investment in women and girls plays in poverty alleviation, improved education and health outcomes, increased economic growth and national security,” says Julie Reilly, CEO of The Australian Women Donors Network.



As women have a longer life expectancy than men, they are often responsible for making decisions on the distribution of estates, including charitable giving. In fact many of the philanthropic foundations Perpetual manages may carry the name of men, but were in reality established by women.

According to The Australian Women Donors Network, the role of women in philanthropy in Australia is increasing in line with women’s growing economic capacity and financial independence.

“There is enormous untapped potential for women to engage in philanthropy in Australia to create change,” says Ms Reilly.

Looking ahead, it is clear that the involvement of women in philanthropy is strong and will only continue to grow.

Perpetual’s Philanthropic Services are provided by Perpetual Trustee Company Limited (PTCo), ABN 42 000 001 007, AFSL 236643. This publication has been prepared by PTCo and may contain  information contributed by third parties. It contains general information only and is not intended to provide you with advice or take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. The information is believed to be accurate at the time of compilation and is provided by PTCo in good faith. You should consider whether the information is suitable for your circumstances and we recommend that you seek professional advice. To the extent permitted by law, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage as a result of any reliance on this information. PTCo does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any wording in this document which was contributed by a third party. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.