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The runaway who left a $4m legacy for SA kids

Seventeen-year-old Mavis Brown had no interest in marriage or beginning a family. She also understood that 1930s women like her were expected to follow society’s rules and become a housewife.

But Mavis had other ideas.

She ran away from her home, hitchhiked across Australia, and travelled the world.

Intelligent, independent, and ahead of her time, Mavis was painfully aware of the lack of opportunity for young women of her age.

“She always valued education, mainly because she was never given the opportunity,” said Mavis’ niece, Trudyanne Brown.

“It never even crossed her parents’ mind that she would have wanted to go to university.”

It was not only women who were discouraged from tertiary education – young people from disadvantaged families also missed out. The situation often continues today.

This is why Mavis instructed her estate to set up the Mavis Brown Charitable Trust which will offer at least three South Australian students an annual scholarship of $5000 each for up to six years to support their education.

“Mavis believed whole heartedly that it was a fundamental right for anyone to pursue an education at the highest level if they so wished,” Trudyanne said. Her family were surprised to find that Mavis had accumulated more than $4 million. She had been raised by her family to be frugal and maintained a modest lifestyle throughout her working life.

“She lived modestly and garnered a brilliant investment portfolio to create this scholarship so that young people today had the chance to enjoy opportunities that many of her generation missed out on,” Trudyanne said.

The scholarship supports three students at Flinders University in South Australia, in the fields of medicine, science, and law throughout the duration of their degree. Mavis knew that the heavy demands of those courses meant students must often sacrifice part-time work.

The first round of her scholarship was awarded this year to students who have outperformed academically. In 2020, with a recession underway, the scholarship has helped students struggling to make ends meet or who must travel long distances to get to university.

“It’s quite extraordinary the lengths people will go for education,” Trudyanne said, who described her aunt as “one of a kind,” and extremely successful.

“During her lifetime she travelled extensively, worked compulsively, was a great devotee of the arts, and an excellent sportswoman. She was feisty, funny, hardworking and never shied away from intelligent debate; these attributes were tempered with grace and wit.”

Students will continue to benefit from her legacy for generations to come. 

Read the Flinders University’s Impact of Giving report 

As Australia’s leading specialist trustee company and leading trustee philanthropic funder, Equity Trustees is proud to be a part of Mavis's legacy continuing for generations to come. We have launched our 2021 Annual Giving Review.

Read our report online at the link below.

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