Annual Report 1999
The Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation
CHAIRMAN'S REPORT 1999
Sir Daryl Dawson, AC, KBE, CB
1999 is the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation. Substantial achievements have been made during those twenty years. Established by the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust in September 1979, the Foundation has created enduring memorials to Sir Robert Menzies and his ideals. Its initiatives derive from the Foundation's original charter of seeking "to promote, through research and innovation, the health and fitness of the Australian community."
Two outstanding and on-going memorials are the medical research centres - the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin and the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research in Hobart. Both the Centres continue to develop their strong reputation for excellence in their work both in Australia and internationally. The Foundation is immensely proud of its central role in the establishment of these Centres and they remain the major recipients of our grants. The Foundation wishes to place on record our gratitude to the two founding Directors, Professor John Mathews, AM and Professor Terry Dwyer, AM who have led their respective institutions to success through many challenging times. It was with regret, therefore, that we learned in June 1999 of Professor Mathews' resignation from the position of Director of the Menzies School of Health Research. We wholeheartedly add our concurrence to the words of the independent "Report of the 1998 Quinquennial Review Committee":
"The Committee has uniformly high praise for the performance of the Director. He leads an exciting and very productive Institute where the enthusiasm, dedication and general morale is high. He continues, with a great deal of sensitivity, to guide the School along a path which will establish a sustainable partnership between the research ethos of the School, the researchers and the Aboriginal community for whom and with whom the School wishes to work. The Director has played a significant role in establishing the Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health which in itself is a major acquisition for the Northern Territory and which should establish important new collaborations to the benefit and improvement of the health status of the Aboriginal people.
We wish Professor Mathews every success in his new position as Head of the National Centre for Disease Control and as Senior Medical Adviser to the Public Health Division of the Commonwealth Department of Health in Canberra.
It is worth noting that the recommendation for the establishment of both the medical research institutions came from a seminar or workshop sponsored by the Menzies Foundation. Over the past 20 years, the Foundation has conducted at least one health-related symposium each year. Since 1998, one annual symposium has been developed by a member of the Menzies Memorial Scholars Alumni Association, i.e. by a former recipient of a Menzies Memorial Scholarship in medicine, law, engineering or the allied health sciences. In 1999, a one-day meeting, initiated by Associate Professor David Morgan, was held at "Clarendon Terrace" on "The Establishment of a National Tissue Processing Centre in Australia". A summary of the meeting is included elsewhere in this Annual Report and the proceedings are also available on CD-ROM and on the Foundation's web site.
The Foundation continues to provide support for Menzies scholarships and fellowships and this year increased its support for the UK Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust Scholarships in Law by $35,000. I was privileged to Chair the Selection Committee for the Law Scholarships and I am again pleased to report that the quality of the scholars is truly outstanding. It was a pleasure to meet many of the previous scholars at a joint dinner with the Foundation's Board in November and to hear of their many and varied individual achievements since they returned to Australia.
One new initiative of the Foundation in 1999 was the sponsorship of a Menzies Lecture held conjointly with other organisations. The first was the ScienceNOW! plenary lecture during Science Week and the second was held in the Centre for Molecular Biology and Medicine. The sponsorship of the lectures - given on both occasions by overseas speakers - greatly enhanced the Foundation's public visibility.
I am pleased to report that the Menzies name will also continue to be visible in the United Kingdom and Europe through the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies. In 1997 we regretfully announced that our financial support for the Centre - which had been the major recipient of our funds since 1988 - would cease in October 2000 but "with the proviso that we would take all possible steps to assist the Centre in seeking financial support from other sources." In its 1999 budget, the Federal Government recognised the Centre's "invaluable role for Australia and Britain as a centre for teaching and research in Australian studies" and announced that it would award a one-off endowment of $5 million to the Centre. The Foundation will provide $25,000 per annum from 2001 for a Menzies Foundation Fellowship to the Centre.
The Foundation moves into the 21st Century content in the knowledge that many worthwhile Menzies memorials have been created in the past 20 years. We look forward to a new era based on today's escalating computer technology. Our Executive Director's report outlines some exciting new developments in this area involving our own web site and Museum Victoria.
I report with sadness the death of Mr Harry Giese, AM, MBE on 4 February, 2000. Mr Giese's contribution to the Foundation and to the Menzies School of Health Research was immense and a tribute to him appears in this report. The Australia Day Honors list brought happier news with Dr Eric Wigglesworth, the Foundation's Executive Director from 1979-1998, being appointed a Member in the Order of Australia (AM) for "service to the promotion of public health through the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation and to accident prevention." Our warmest congratulations go to him on this recognition of his important role in the first 20 years of the Foundation's achievements.
Sir Daryl Dawson