11 Jun 2021
After Roy Everard Ross died in 1970, media headlines talked about the $8.9 million he left to charity.
In his Will, Mr Ross left a portfolio of assets including shares, property and Hillview Quarries – the company established in 1968 to run an existing quarry at Dromana.
Mr Ross named five Trustees and directed that the income in perpetuity from his estate go to charities or charitable purposes that his Trustees saw fit.
In addition, he asked that his Trustees consider providing funds for “the education and maintenance of foreign students in Australia” and “the acquisition, preservation and maintenance of national or public parks and particularly the protection and preservation of flora and fauna”.
At their first meeting, in November 1970, the Trustees decided on a name: the RE Ross Trust. They also decided to retain Hillview Quarries as an asset to earn income for the Trust.
Ross Trust Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hardy said the first Trustees in 1970 decided to give priority to charitable projects rather than specific charities, a general philosophy that continues today.
“The first Trustees decided to focus on three fields – social welfare, nature conservation and education of foreign students,” Ms Hardy says.
“Over the years the Trust has shifted some of its granting focus, depending on what the Trustees consider to be the need at the time. For example, some years they have a series of grants looking at medical need or women and children or social justice.
“The one constant has been conservation. The Ross Trust has granted to conservation and the environment every year since 1970.”
In a five-year granting strategy starting in 2019, the Ross Trust confirmed it would focus on biodiversity conservation, educational equity and responsive grants, including responding to Victorians in crisis.
In the 50 years since Mr Ross’ death, the Ross Trust has distributed almost $140 million to charities across Victoria.
The enduring legacy of his Will would probably have come as something of a surprise to Mr Ross, who was described in a 1969 article in the Herald as “not an egotistical man. He shuns personal publicity. He dislikes talking about money.”
“Thanks to his legacy, the Trust has been able to work with many charities, community partners and collaborators to have a real impact on the wellbeing of the Victorian community,” Ms Hardy says.
“This impact has ranged from helping acquire land for national parks and supporting low-income families, to buying equipment for hospitals, working with First Nation communities, advocating for human rights and justice and assisting with bushfire relief and recovery.”