Annual Report 1999
The Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Foundation
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT 1999
Professor John Coghlan, AO
As our financial advisers and fund managers forecast, our income in 1999 was diminished to 6% but expenditure was controlled back to about $1 million. The market value of our investments totalled $14.03 million at 31 December, 1999 and, by rough calculation, our original $6.4 million investment has been protected against inflation.
Our diminished income prompted the Board as its first remedial action to call for tenders from a portfolio of the most effective investment fund managers. These managers were ranked by a rigorous process of written submission and interviews conducted by two Board members, Mr Ken Spencer and Mr Charles Kiefel, and myself. The Board decided to take a little more risk in our investments but at the same time hedging that risk by allocating the investment portfolio to three fund managers: Credit Suisse Asset Management ($6 million); JB Were Asset Management ($4 million); Westpac Investment Management ($4.3 million). The outcome from these changes will be closely monitored by the Board during 2000.
Within our budget certain initiatives could still be taken. A long overdue upgrade of the office computers and net work was carried out and will be regularly updated from now on. Contemporary accounting software which is GST compliant was included in this upgrade and both Sandra Mackenzie and Glenis McDonald have become proficient in its use.
This year the secretariat introduced a new ranking system for the administration of the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship in Law. The reduced number of interviews seemed to work well and the very high standards of the past were well and truly maintained. The majority of candidates now download the application form from our web site. This system is not only convenient for the applicant but represents a considerable saving in time and postage costs for the secretariat. It is worth noting that amongst the philanthropic trusts and grant awarding bodies, the Menzies Foundation has had a leadership position in applying Internet technology to its day-to-day operations.
The virtual Menzies Museum CD-ROM to go onto our web site is in progress. The earlier time posts for this project were too ambitious. We have, however, increased the scope of the project because of advances in technology. Extensive video and film clips which were greatly restricted in the past can almost be included at will and sound clips can be included without restriction. Part of this plan for our web site is to include a time line spanning Sir Robert Menzies' life from 1894-1978. Each year would include an aspect of Sir Robert's life, Australian events and world events. We anticipate it may be of special interest to many people with an historical interest and that it could benefit children researching the life of Sir Robert for school projects.
In a further development involving the Internet, the Foundation has entered into a joint agreement with Museum Victoria. As part of this project, several "hot buttons" to the Foundation's web site will be inserted into the Museum Victoria web site, including the home page which has on average 1,300 visits each day. It will make the Foundation a partner in a formal educational program accessible not only to Victorian schools but internationally. Other benefits to the Foundation include the development of a joint education program based around Federation in conjunction with the Museum's Australian Society Program. The Secretariat is looking forward to working on this project with Museum Victoria in 2000.
Sir Daryl has mentioned in his report the success of the lectures sponsored by the Foundation in 1999: Dr Laurie Garrett gave the ScienceNOW! plenary lecture on the increasing international threat of infectious disease to public health; Dr Mark Schena at the Centre for Molecular Biology and Medicine spoke on "Current and Future Trends in the Application of DNA Microarray Technology"; and Sir Guy Green at the University of Melbourne gave the Menzies Oration on "Governors, Democracy and the Rule of Law". These lecturers, all recognised leaders in their diverse fields, used the title "Menzies Lecturer/Orator" and we hope to be able to sponsor similar activities in future years.
Similarly, the Second Menzies Alumni Symposium on Tissue Banks was also successful and produced a CD-ROM and an important outcome for public health. The findings have been well received by the Minister's Office and the Health Advisory Committee of NH MRC will progress this matter further.
Prof John Coghlan, Dr Sue Meek, Sir Gustav Nossal
Sir Gustav Nossal (right) chaired the ScienceNOW! Menzies Foundation Plenary Lecture. He is pictured with Professor John Coghlan and Dr Sue Meek
1999 has been a year of change for two of the Menzies centres. The eminent scientist Professor Kerin O'Dea will take up the Directorship of the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin following the resignation of Professor John Mathews and the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London, long resident on Russell Square in a lovely old Georgian building, is on the move to King's College on the Strand. The Federal Government's $5 million endowment, stronger links and financial support from Monash University and Professor Carl Bridge's seven year appointment as Director confers stability and allows longer term planning for the Centre.
I had the opportunity for a short visit to the Centre in June 1999 while on my annual endocrinology tour. It was a pleasure to present Professor Carl Bridge with three important additions to the Centre's Library from me: (1) "The Wreck of the Barque Stefano off the North West Cape of Australia in 1875" by Gustave Rathe; (2) "The Discovery of Tasmania" by Edward Duyker and (3) a CD-ROM "Endeavour - Captain Cook's Journal 1768-71."
I look forward to my continuing involvement with the Menzies centres in Darwin, Hobart and London as they and the Menzies Foundation move into the 21st Century.
Professor John Coghlan, AO