The Campaign to support the University of Sydney

The University of Sydney has announced the launch of its first major fundraising Campaign, the biggest fundraising drive of its kind in Australian higher education.
Image of Dancer Michelle Lim

Dancer Michelle Lim

INSPIRED – The Campaign to support the University of Sydney aims to raise $600 million from more than 40,000 donors to advance the standards of tertiary education, research and innovation. In January 2008, the University embarked on the silent phase of its Campaign journey and decided that every person who made a gift, regardless of the dollar amount, would be contributing to the goal. By May 2013, the University raised more than $300 million with the help of 28,000 passionate donors.

Philanthropy provides an opportunity to rise above the level of business-as-usual and achieve something special. This campaign can help to reshape the Australian university landscape, to position our nation as a global thought leader. The impact of this support will be felt and seen in every facet of our work, and benefit many generations to come.

Since the University’s inception in 1850, the generosity of its benefactors has had an indelible effect on the institution. Names like Thomas Fisher, John Henry Challis, Sir Samuel McCaughey, JW Power and William John Macleay will forever be associated with the University.

These gifts live on in the sandstone, books, equipment, ideas, and the achievements of its people. Philanthropy has touched every one of the University’s faculties, libraries, museums, research tools and multidisciplinary centres. The generosity of its alumni has increased the bursaries and scholarships available to students struggling with financial challenges, helping more than 1500 students in need last year alone. Philanthropy has supported some of the most prolific scientific breakthroughs of our time and changed people’s lives.
The University of Sydney is leading the way towards a new era of partnership with the wider community to address real-world challenges.

An inspiring evening

The campaign launch last month showcased the impressive breadth of the University’s past and present achievements, and shone a light on the great challenges that lie ahead.
Image of the INSPIRED launch

On Saturday 4 May, against the stunning backdrop of Sydney Harbour, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence publicly launched INSPIRED – The Campaign to Support the University of Sydney. At a black-tie dinner for more than 350 of the University’s most committed supporters at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, the Vice-Chancellor unveiled the University’s ambitious target of $600 million.

ABC presenter Adam Spencer, an alumnus and himself a donor to the University, acted as master of ceremonies, sharing with guests a glimpse of the talent and expertise from across the faculties.

Guests enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the gallery space showcasing specially selected works from recent undergraduate and postgraduate exhibitions at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning and Sydney College of the Arts. More curious guests had an up-close encounter with Shrimp, a mobile robot from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, which is more commonly used for mapping crop yield information for farmers.

Others took the opportunity to stargaze with Newtonian reflector telescopes, provided by the Faculty of Science, set up on the balcony overlooking Circular Quay and the Opera House. Students from the Conservatorium of Music dazzled unsuspecting diners by performing a flash mob opera. As the orchestra played, singers broke into spontaneous song performing the finale from Act 2 of Johann Strauss’s opera Der Fledermaus.

Attendees were treated to a three course meal, designed by Executive Chef Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant and Bar and prepared by Bayleaf Catering. Professor Steve Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, provided tasting notes on the meal, giving guests an insight into nutritional benefits of the meal and the centre’s research work.

A highlight of the night was the announcement of three principal gifts totalling $16 million, which will each have a significant and lasting impact on a different area of the University.

During each course, guests were joined at their table by different academic speakers, researchers and students, who spoke informally on topics ranging from the London Paralympic Games, engineering the quantum future and Australia’s historic tobacco plain packaging law. Michelle Lim, a first year science student, danced her way through an impressive array of faculty achievements represented in an interactive multimedia performance.

A highlight of the night was the announcement of three principal gifts totalling $16 million, which will each have a significant and lasting impact on a different area of the University. Australian entrepreneur Sean Howard pledged $10 million to establish the Valerie Mary Howard Initiative to advance new research, outstanding patient care, and exceptional teaching and learning facilities at the Save Sight Institute.

An anonymous donor made a commitment to donate $5 million to create a Teacher Enrichment Academy for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers – a multidisciplinary collaboration to strengthen the confidence of mathematics and science teachers in schools Australia-wide.

Campaign Board member and long-time supporter of the University of Sydney, Michael Hintze, also pledged $1 million to launch a flagship research and development incubator with the Charles Perkins Centre to explore commercially viable applications for improving individual and population health.

As an unforgettable evening of inspiration more than 160 years in the making drew to a close, the Vice-Chancellor made a toast to the University of Sydney, inviting guests to celebrate the University’s achievements, past, present, and future.

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Their lives, our research and your support

Hoc Mãi Foundation – Saving lives in Dien Bien
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Hoc Mãi, the Australia Vietnam Medical Foundation, is a non-profit organisation of the University of Sydney whose mission is to improve medical education and health outcomes in Vietnam.

One of its most significant projects concerns maternal, neonatal and child health in Dien Bien province in the remote northwest of the country, which is home to 21 ethnic minority groups with one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world, compounded by low literacy levels.

Hoc Mãi has been able to provide essential supplies for pregnant women in Dien Bien, and run a series of educational workshops for local doctors, nurses and midwives. Participants develop essential maternal and child health skills, such as infection control, nutrition and dealing with post-partum haemorrhage.

Continued support from our donor communities will allow Hoc Mãi to build on its achievements. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.

  • $60 covers local transfers for doctors, nurses and midwives to attend workshops
  • $200 pays for the insurance of the health professionals travelling to Vietnam to provide education and training
  • $500 provides enough basic kits to measure haemoglobin in an entire region
  • $1000 covers the cost of interpreters for a six-day workshop.

See for more information.

Sydney Burns Foundation – Revolutionising burns treatments
Image of Sydney Burns Foundation doctors

The Sydney Burns Foundation (SBF), based at Sydney Medical School, is supporting research that could revolutionise the treatment of burn injuries. To date, the most common treatment for burn wounds has been skin grafting – a surgical procedure that takes skin from a healthy part of the patient’s body and transplants it to a prepared wound bed. However, this often involves scarring and subsequent loss of integrity and function, and potential for ongoing pain.

The SBF’s innovative Living Skin project, which develops full-thickness, three-dimensional skin in a laboratory, offers a far better outcome for patients. A fully functioning ‘living skin’ contains the majority of the lost skin elements, such as sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels and nerve fibres. As the skin is synthesised in a lab – not removed from elsewhere on a person’s body – it is a much better option for burn victims who have a limited amount of healthy skin left for skin grafts.

The SBF and the Living Skin project is led by Associate Professor Peter Haertsch OAM and Professor Peter Maitz, both of whom were recognised for the medical assistance they provided to the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.

“The Living Skin project has the potential to change lives,” says Associate Professor Haertsch. “We are leading the way in developing an affordable and safe alternative to the classic skin grafting procedure, to make the pain of surviving a burns injury worth it.”

Research undertaken to date has been extremely promising. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the SBF is helping to change lives.

Australian Stuttering Research Centre
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The Australian Stuttering Research Centre (ASRC) is leading the development of treatments for stuttering, thanks to the support of the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Research Fund.

Established in 2006, this fund supports post-treatment services for adults and adolescents. It was generously provided by Herbert and Valmae Freilich, who also instigated two Indigenous scholarships at the University, for students of law and medicine.

Stuttering is a widespread public health problem, with recent reports showing that one in 10 preschool children are affected by it.
Based in the Faculty of Health Sciences, ASRC researchers have developed and trialled new stuttering treatments and train future researchers to continue the centre’s work. Its research involves clinical trials of innovative treatments to control stuttering, investigating the cause of stuttering, the mental health of those who stutter, and the effects of stuttering on young children.

The centre’s other major aim is to support those who stutter and their families, providing techniques and strategies to minimise the impact of this prevalent speech disorder in everyday life.
Head of the ASRC Professor Mark Onslow believes that treatment can be effective. “There are effective treatments for preschool age children that can stop stuttering from developing. There are also treatments for adults that can offset the speech and psychological problems associated with stuttering,” he says.

ASRC researchers are also focusing on modern technology to improve patient access to treatment, such as online programs that can be used by anyone in the world.

Digging deeper into Australia’s prehistorical past
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Tom Austen Brown was a remarkable man, and his legacy lives on through his bequest in 2009 towards the study of prehistory. Valued at $6.9 million, the bequest came on top of the $1.8 million he gave the University during his lifetime.

“This is an extraordinary gift. Understanding the deep past of the cultures that have inhabited this continent will play a vital role in helping us to imagine what our future might be,” said Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Tom Austen Brown was an avid amateur archaeologist. As a lawyer, his work required him to visit clients living on remote outback properties where he began collecting ancient Aboriginal artefacts. This inspired a passion for prehistory that led him to enrol in an arts degree at the University of Sydney, majoring in archaeology. After graduating in 1974, Brown completed a master’s in anthropology at Washington State University. He returned to Australia in the early 1980s to explore remote ancient Aboriginal sites in his campervan.

When Brown died in 2009, he left half of his estate to the University. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has put the gift to excellent use, establishing a chair of Australian archaeology filled by leading pre-history expert Professor Peter Hiscock, along with the Tom Austen Brown Grants Program for Prehistory to foster research, education and fieldwork archaeology.

Recently the program supported research into ancient technology and lifeways in the South Australian deserts, which found evidence of an ice-age occupation in Australia’s driest desert, highlighting the adaptive skills of early Aboriginal peoples.

Message from the Vice-Chancellor

INSPIRED – The Campaign to support the University of Sydney is a significant milestone in the history of higher education in this country. We are leading the way in Australia by forging a new path to raise the standards of tertiary education, research and its impact on your community.
Image of Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence

A successful Campaign will ensure that we can remain a place of exceptional scholarship, world-class facilities, and research brilliance. Raising $600 million from 40,000 supporters is an ambitious target, but we have a history of outstanding achievement in philanthropy, and I am confident we can reach it.

The year 2013 and beyond presents an array of challenges. Constraints on the federal budget mean the tertiary sector is unlikely to see an increase in government support within the next decade, regardless of which party is in office.

We have a thriving student community, full to overflowing with extraordinary people who deserve to reach their full potential. But to support them we need great teachers, excellent facilities, and a curriculum that encourages them to be all that they can be, regardless of where they have come from.

As one of the premier research universities in the world, we feel a keen responsibility not just to maintain our standing but improve on it. We are at the forefront of major cross-disciplinary research and our people are making significant contributions towards solving some of the world’s most serious issues. However, as government research grants become increasingly competitive, we need to find new ways to fund the depth and breadth of our pioneering research initiatives.

Philanthropy has played a critical role in our evolution and growth. Without the far-sighted gifts from people like Thomas Fisher, John Henry Challis, JW Power, William John Macleay and Sir Samuel McCaughey, our University would not be what it is today. Their legacy endures in our libraries, museums, art collections, faculties and centres, and most importantly in our people. We need to build on this foundation of philanthropy to ensure we remain a great public university.

INSPIRED – The Campaign to support the University of Sydney is a celebration of all that we are capable of delivering. Our supporters, students, staff and alumni all have a part to play. By working together in pursuit of our shared passions, we can make a real difference for future generations.