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Historically, the role of women in philanthropy has been passive and behind the scenes, with women owning the role of “volunteer”. However, with the increase in wealth among women, we are seeing a surge in female philanthropists who are donating financially to fulfil their desire for involvement and change.

Miss Cecile Phyllis Connor was a trailblazer in this regard; a prudent investor who gave during her lifetime and ensured her charitable legacy would live on through her foundation, the Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust. She was an incredible woman for her era: someone who clearly knew her own mind and pursued her many and varied interests with determination and passion.

After completing her college education in the 1920s, Miss Connor entered the workforce with a job at the then relatively new State Electricity Commission. When Australia was drawn into World War II, she enlisted and became a driver for the army, later becoming involved in intelligence-gathering for the military secret service.

Prudent investments, coupled with a long and vital life, gave Cecile Phyllis Connor many opportunities to financially support charitable organisations and causes dear to her heart. Following her death in May 2010, just one year shy of her 100th birthday, she ensured her generosity would continue by establishing a perpetual charitable trust through her Will.

This Trust is now valued at more than $26 million, with approximately $800,000 distributed to Victorian charities every year. More than 75 charitable projects have already benefited from Miss Connor’s generosity and foresight, and we look forward to supporting many more through her legacy.


The Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation was established by Charles Viertel in 1992 to benefit organisations or institutions involved in medical research into diseases along with the alleviation of hardship of the aged and the sick.

The Foundation’s Chair, the Honourable Justice Debra Mullins AO, shared “When I was asked to join the Board of Trustees and subsequently Chair – I was honoured. It is truly inspiring to read the submissions and see the depth and breadth of scientific research that is happening in Australia. So many incredible women and men, doing their part to advance health outcomes for Australians and the world. It is truly a privilege to sit alongside my fellow Trustees, to be guardians of the legacy that Charles and Sylvia, fellow Queenslanders, have created.”

The Foundation distributes more than $8 million annually to three named for purpose organisations as well as providing support to medical researchers:

  • The Clinical Investigator Awards were created in recognition of a worldwide decline in clinical investigation. They support new clinical investigators to establish their research programs in the difficult transition from doctoral and post-doctoral training posts to their first clinical position in an academic environment.
  • The Senior Medical Research Fellowship recognises the need for career research fellowships, bridging the gap between post-doctoral studies and career research positions. A multi-year fellowship is available to those who wish to continue a career in medical research in Australia.

Of the two Viertel Fellowships funded directly by the Foundation, one is awarded to a woman and one to a man as part of the Foundation’s commitment to encouraging excellence and gender equality in the fields of medical and scientific research.