Vale Betty Amsden AO
28 February 2017 at 8:57 am
The not-for-profit community is mourning the death of philanthropist Betty Amsden AO who supported a myriad of causes from the arts to disability and in particular guide dogs.
Amsden, who died at home on the weekend, has been described as making an extraordinary contribution towards changing attitudes about private support for the arts over 30 years including a landmark $5 million gift to Arts Centre Melbourne in 2009, and her additional pledge of $1 million in 2013.
As a philanthropist she played an instrumental role in promoting the importance of building the capacity of organisations to fundraise effectively.
She helped establish the Arts Centre Melbourne Foundation, which spearheaded the organisation’s fundraising activities. Amsden’s vision for the foundation was to help educate the community on the importance of giving to ensure future generations can experience a thriving performing arts scene in Victoria.
She also developed giving programs at Polyglot Children’s Theatre, 3MBS, the RSPCA, Guide Dogs Victoria, the Melbourne Recital Centre and the Australian Ballet Centre.
In 2013 Amsden was recognised for outstanding leadership and advocacy that encouraged increased philanthropic giving to Australia’s cultural life by being awarded the Creative Partnerships Philanthropy Leadership Award.
In 2014 she received an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the community through philanthropic contributions and support for the arts, including the development of public education and participation programs, particularly for children.
Amsden was the vice-patron of Guide Dogs Victoria and CEO Karen Hayes said: “Betty has been an extraordinary force championing the rights of people with low vision or blindness to live rich and fulfilling lives.
“Whilst many supporters focused on the Guide Dog, Betty’s heart was always about what the Guide Dog could do for the person, and she advocated tirelessly for the stories of our clients’ achievements to be told.
“Over the course of the last seven years, Betty has been an extremely active and influential member of the board and as vice-patron, providing a level of leadership and stewardship of immense value and insight. It is no overstatement, when I say that Guide Dogs Victoria would not be where it is today without Betty’s amazing insight and passion. She has provided the greatest and most enduring service to Guide Dogs Victoria and her legacy will remain forever.
“Betty didn’t just write cheques.She rolled up the sleeves and got involved with the organisations she supported attending performances, working on sausage sizzles, sitting on boards and staying in close contact with the scholarship recipients she funded.”
Her contributions to Guide Dogs Victoria included:
- Funding and facilitating a workshop for children living with low vision and blindness at the Victorian Arts Centre, which encouraged the children to develop greater confidence in themselves.
- Funding and facilitating the Betty Amsden Enriched Learning program, creating numerous scholarships for the professional development of Guide Dog instructors (both in Australia and overseas) in order to develop young leaders within the organisation.
- Funding Guide Dogs Victoria’s unique clicker training for Guide Dogs, which is a way of training the dogs to respond to commands such as “stop”, “forward” and “straight” by responding to sound, as part of the organisation’s positive reinforcement training methods.
- Leading and contributing to a number of capital campaigns including the 2016 Breeding and Kennels upgrade and the current Future is in Sight campaign.
“I personally regard Betty as an extraordinarily generous person and a great friend who has devoted her life to helping others. Her legacy will live on in the lives of the thousands of Victorians with low vision and blindness who have achieved confidence and independence as a result of her exceptional generosity and belief in them. She will be very sadly missed by us all,” Hayes said.
Melbourne Women’s Fund co-founders Patricia Burke and Gillian Hund said Amsden would be greatly missed.
“Betty was very well known and hugely loved for her inspiring philanthropy, zest for life, interest in promoting opportunities for children and her great support of the arts and health sector. Always with a twinkle in her eye and a ready laugh she was passionate about the myriad of organisations she supported and fearless in her approach to chair and board member responsibilities,” they said.
“Betty would often say: ‘You have to believe in why you are giving and then get involved, it’s not writing a cheque, it’s understanding what you can bring to add value in many different ways.’”