Philanthropist Still a Mystery 50 Years On!
30 April 2001 at 1:04 pm
This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the death Australian philanthropist Helen M Schutt whose amazing life still largely remains a mystery even to those who now run her Trust. But her legacy continues to grow.
Helen Macpherson Schutt nee Smith was born in Melbourne in 1874 and died in France in 1951…a strange twist of fate saw her buried temporarily in a pauper’s grave.
However in her will she left instructions to set up a Philanthropic Trust of 350,000 pounds for distribution amongst Victorian charities. That Trust has now delivered over $34 million dollars in fifty years.
One of her main beneficiaries is the Royal District Nursing Service in Victoria.
The RDNS Fundraising Manager, Richard Zimmermann says Schutt first assisted the service in 1920 with a donation of 1-pound. It was the time of the influenza epidemic and the Service was run off its feet.
Zimmermann says the Trusts management over the last fifty years has been very impressive turning the meagre original amount into fifty million dollars and handing out 2.5 million a year to hundreds of charities.
He says the RDNS has received $1 million in that time.
But still very little is known about the woman who married a Melbourne solicitor and travelled the world…spending the last 27 years of her life in France and Switzerland.
The Helen M Schutt Trust launched a booklet about this remarkable woman on the 19th of April to mark the 50th anniversary of her death, not as the definitive piece on her life but as a way of trying to find more pieces to the puzzle.
As part of the Anniversary celebrations the Trust announced two major initiatives.
Firstly the establishment of a special $5 million Anniversary Fund doubling the annual disbursements. $2.7 million has already been allocated with the remaining $2.3 million still available.
The Trust has supported a wide variety of charities including The State Library of Victoria, The Zoological Parks and Gardens Board, The International Diabetes Institute and Women’s Health Victoria.
The second initiative is a name change! The Trust has decided to revert back to the philanthropist’s family names, so from July 1st the Trust will be known as the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.
The Trust says the decision was made that Helen’s money originally came from her parents and grandparents, the Macphersons and Smiths, who were land owners and timber merchants, so it seems more appropriate to honour those connections.
For more information about the special 2001 grants program contact and for a copy of the guidelines contact the Grants Executive Susan Wauchope on 03 9614 7933.
If you have a story about Helen M Schutt and can add to her personal history let us know at Pro Bono Australia so that we can retell your tale. Post it on the Forum page at probonoaustralia.com.au.