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11 Nov 2019

One very generous and community minded philanthropist who has, among other things, sponsored the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship, agreed to tell Australian Medicine some of her story. She asked to be referred to by her first name only.

 

Philanthropy is a noble thing. Giving back to the community through significant financial donations for the welfare of others is something to be greatly admired. Not everyone who has the means will think of others and the greater good in such a generous way. For those who do, the plethora of worthy causes can make it difficult to know where to focus the goodwill and kindness.

Ann from Melbourne has found a focus that she believes is more than simply a worthy cause – it is a national necessity. Her aim is for sustainable change, not band aid solutions.

Ann has been generously and very thoughtfully directing her philanthropic efforts towards Indigenous health and Indigenous education. This has been nowhere more emphasised than with her sponsorship of the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship, which aims for the betterment of both the education and the health of Indigenous Australians.

The 2019 scholarship, presented to Darwin student Nikki Kastellorizios, was awarded through Ann’s sub-fund of the Australian Communities Foundation.

Not only has Ann funded one year of Nikki’s degree with $10,000, but plans to continue to support her through each year left of her studies.

“I recently met her on a trip I did to the Northern Territory. We met over breakfast and she told me a bit more about herself,” Ann said.

She told me how she is using the money, some of which will be used for childcare, some for medical apps and how this has taken some pressure off her while she is studying. I believe her to be a very worthy recipient of the scholarship; she certainly has her priorities right and is a level-headed person. I was pleased to see how the scholarship money had already had an impact for good on her life and her studies and how she wants to give back to her community as an Indigenous doctor.” 

Something of major concern to Ann is the prevalence of trachoma in Australia; that Australia should be the only developed country in the world still to have this preventable infectious eye disease which can lead to blindness is a national disgrace. Support has been given and it is ongoing to Professor Hugh Taylor AC who heads the Indigenous Health Unit at the University of Melbourne and good progress is being made towards reducing the incidence of trachoma among the Indigenous population.

About five years ago, Ann was involved in the establishment of the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School. The students, 11 girls and 11 boys, mainly from the Northern Territory but also from around Bairnsdale in Victoria, come to MITS for one year. These students are studying to bring them up to year 7 level. After this one year, they move into partner schools, mainly private, in Melbourne, although a few decide to continue their education closer to home. 

She is also funding a scholarship for an Indigenous girl at University College, University of Melbourne, which began in 2015. So far, these students have been pursuing an Arts Degree, studying Indigenous subjects, but it is likely that her scholar for 2020 will be heading towards medicine.

She is currently negotiating with Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health headed by Professor Patrick McGorry AO, for three Indigenous students to study for their PhDs in mental health, with an Indigenous supervisor, and this is likely to begin in January 2020.

“I grew up in Melbourne and had no siblings. I went to school and university here,” Ann said. Then I had a 40-year career as a librarian, mainly at La Trobe University. In retirement, I did some volunteer work, with Vision Australia and I selected gardens for what was then Australia’s Open Garden Scheme. I also did a couple of subjects in the philanthropy course at Swinburne University.

“From there I set up a sub-fund with the Australian Communities Foundation, about 12 or 13 years ago. For the past six years I have had my own Foundation, which has funded some of the above.”

She recently refocused her philanthropy from a few other areas to concentrate for the most part on supporting Indigenous Australians. This resolve was strengthened by a recent visit to Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and Broome and Derby in Western Australia, seeing firsthand the great need in the Indigenous communities there.

Her work in that area has also been motivated by seeing inspiring Indigenous leaders and speakers encouraging emerging generations.

“I do believe there is great need within the Indigenous population in Australia,” Ann said.

“It is important to me that we get on with it.”

Asked why she has devoted so much of herself to philanthropy, Ann’s answer is direct.

“It came from being conscious of having the wherewithal and the many needs for support and social change in the community” she said.

“It’s very simple.”

CHRIS JOHNSON


Published: 11 Nov 2019