Annual Reports

2015 Executive Report

$1.3 million in grants, a new scholarship program at The University of Melbourne and farewell from the Foundation's CEO of ten years, Janet Hirst.
Janet Hirst

CEO's Report 2015

This past year brought some exciting changes for the George Alexander Foundation. We have a new CEO, Craig Connelly, who took the helm in December 2015. Although new to the philanthropic sector, Craig has embraced the philosophy and ethos of the Foundation, taking time in his first six months to visit our partner institutions and meeting with many current GAF scholars and fellows across Australia.

Early in 2016, the Foundation published a new edition of the biography of George Alexander, ‘The little brother'. The previous edition was published in 2006 before George Alexander passed away in 2008. This edition has allowed us to bring George's personal story to a close and reveal the path taken by the Foundation since his passing. Previously, only scholars and fellows received a copy of this monograph, but now everyone can access this fascinating story of a self-made man who has left such a lasting legacy, as the new edition of 'The Little Brother' is also available as an e-book.

In February this year, the Foundation also launched a new website and recently, the Foundation published the first issue of its newsletter, Campus, which has gone out to over 350 of our current scholars and fellows, alumni and partner institutions.

In the past year, the Foundation's Board was pleased to renew two of its scholarship programs. Murdoch University in Perth will receive $432,000 over five years from 2017 through 2021, funding a further 18 scholarships. The George Alexander Foundation Campus Accommodation Rural Scholarship Program at Murdoch was established in 2008 with the aim of encouraging students from rural areas to enrol in courses at Murdoch University. The scholarships assist students in overcoming the burden of the increased costs of moving to the city in order to take up tertiary studies. The scholars selected come from all over Western Australia, and some students from the Northern Territory also apply.

This year has been another wonderful year for The George Alexander Foundation. Over $1.3 million was paid to the institutions which have been awarded George Alexander Foundation Scholarship and Fellowship Programs. In addition to ongoing Fellowship programs at the International Specialised Skills Institute and the Centre for Sustainability Leadership, we have now supported over 500 scholarships since the first programs were established in 2002 and provided over $10 million in grants through the program.

Importantly this year, we supported our first GAF scholarship program at the University of Melbourne. The GAF Agricultural Undergraduate Scholarship Program will assist students who are studying within the Faculty of Veterinary Science and Agricultural Studies, and who have had to re-locate from regional and rural communities.

This will be my last report as CEO of The George Alexander Foundation as I am stepping down in December 2015. I was privileged to meet George Alexander on several occasions before he died in 2008, and was inspired by his passion and vision for supporting young people, and the ideal of building the scholarship program and extending it to as many universities as the funds would allow.

My hope for the future is that the program will continue to grow and assist more talented young Australians to study and reach their full potential. I also hope that GAF scholars take the time to learn about George Alexander, a man whose story is an extraordinary tale of achievement in the face of great odds and whose legacy will endure for generations.  

The Scholarship Programs have changed over the past ten years, however there has been one constant, and that is the quality of the scholars and fellows and their commitment and their faith in the future. Many of our GAF scholars are the first members of their family to go to university, and are paving the way for younger siblings. They tell us that winning the scholarship and the confidence this has given them, has had amazing flow-on benefits to their families, and given younger family members the belief that they too can go to university.  

There are now hundreds of GAF alumni who are contributing to our community in many ways. George Alexander was very keen on the idea of forming an alumni, saying he wanted to ‘encourage this diverse group of students to network between each other, across disciplines, across states and across years. I sense this could be where the real value of their scholarships may ultimately lie’.

The Foundation has been on its own journey over the past ten years. We have seen a move away from grants to environmental issues to supporting scholarships; in 2011 a new logo was designed and we have grown the scholarship program as George Alexander had envisaged. In 2012 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Foundation and the 10th anniversary of the GAF Scholarship program. We celebrated with scholars, friends, grantees, Governors and staff the vision and contribution of George Alexander and his foundation.

I continue to be inspired by the achievements of so many of our GAF fellows and scholars, such as Marli Lopez-Hope from Swinburne, who won the National Geographic competition to go to Antarctica, or RMIT 2014 Scholar Madeleine Buchner who runs her own NFP organisation which provides support for young carers and 2007 GAF Institute of Specialised Skills Institute, Michael Dal Zotto, who is now a winemaker specialising in Prosecco. Every one of our scholars and fellows has a story to tell and I hope that in the years to come we will be sharing these via our forthcoming new website and our social media, so others may be inspired by what they have achieved.

One of the great joys for me throughout my tenure has been the opportunity to meet our scholars, whether it is at an award ceremony or at an event to bring together scholarship recipients to meet Nicole and myself. In 2015, we met with Deakin University scholars and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander at the Geelong campus of and with the Vice-Chancellor and scholars at the University of Tasmania. I always come away from these experiences feeling uplifted and optimistic thanks to the wonderful enthusiasm of the students and their stories of what the scholarships have made possible.

I want to thank the Foundation staff, especially Nicole McLeod, our Program Manager, for her outstanding contribution to the Foundation over the past year. 

All the very best to each and every GAF scholar and fellow, past and present. I look forward to seeing where your journeys take you.

Janet Hirst