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ASSISTING

CAREER

DEVELOPMENT

& RESEARCH

CHAIR'S REPORT

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 JUNE 2021.

On behalf of the Council of the Invergowrie Foundation I am very pleased to provide this Chair’s report for 2021.

As I reflected on the Foundation’s operations for the financial year 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, I reviewed what I had written in my 2020 report, and I had commenced with the following observation:

At the time of writing this report Victoria is still in a stage 4 lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If we rewind to the same time last year no-one in Victoria (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) would have had any idea what this sentence meant let alone imagine how we would be living our lives at this time.

Fast forward to today and as I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write this report the Victorian Premier is about to announce the measures that will be put in place in relation to the current lockdown being experienced in Victoria. It is almost a replica of 2020!

Despite the challenges presented by COVID (and the Delta variant that has emerged) the Foundation has continued to forge ahead with its work. The following is a summary of some of the work the Foundation has undertaken this year.

(1)        STEM Focus

An affirmation by the Council that the Foundation’s focus on STEM would be ongoing and supported staying on this path for the foreseeable future. It is also acknowledged that it is too early to determine the desired impact of the programs and initiatives the Foundation is supporting and the value of the research that has been conducted. It will also be necessary to take into consideration the impact of COVID over the last 2 years which has curtailed the ability to maintain momentum on these projects and initiatives.

(2)       Review of the Foundation’s Constitution

The pandemic has also influenced the way the Foundation manages its operations. The introduction of virtual meetings and how we conduct general business has led the Council to review the constitution. This internal review led the Council to seek legal advice on the constitution, which was created over 30 years ago. Initial advice has suggested that the constitution should be updated in line with current and flexible business practices. The Council will now take the opportunity to review all aspects of the constitution. The culmination of this review will result in any proposed changes to the constitution being brought to the voting members of the Foundation for their consideration, and hopefully approval, if required.

(3)       Development of a STEM Hub

Council was interested in creating an Invergowrie STEM Hub (an online repository for information on STEM). It sought expressions of interest (EOI) for this concept from 3 Universities. As a result, all 3 EOI’s had merit. After consideration the Council felt that the combined strength of the 3 EOI’s could produce a STEM Hub of a high standard and the 3 Universities were invited to consider being part of a collaborative approach to create a STEM Hub.

All 3 Universities agreed to create a working party to consider the concept and the outcome has been the creation of a collaboration between the Universities to review the initiative and develop a new proposal for the Council to consider.

(4)       Review of PhD Program

During discussions with the University of Melbourne regarding the implementation of the PhD Scholarship program some concerns had been raised. In light of these concerns the University was asked to review the program and submit a proposed solution. The outcome was a proposal to broaden the scope of the program to increase the opportunities available for women to include two Research projects or Internship projects, an Early Career Researcher project and a Mentoring Program in addition to the current PhD Award. This expanded proposal would be funded using the current funding model. The Council have agreed to this expanded model and the first beneficiary of the expanded program is Dr Anna Kosovac, an early career researcher. The following is an extract of a letter written by Anna to the Council.

“I am incredibly grateful to The McPherson Family and Invergowrie Foundation for the Early Career Researcher Postgraduate Scholarship. This scholarship will be vital in the progression of my career as an early career researcher by way of expanding my research scope, developing networks as well as incorporating mentoring opportunities.

The scholarship will be of huge benefit to my career progression as it allows me to:

  • Expand my research into rural spaces in Australia.
  • Develop networks within the Mallee region.
  • Use this project as a seed project from which to launch wider studies into water, personal risk perceptions and decision-making.

 Ultimately, this scholarship will allow me to work closely with those in the Mallee Innovation Centre, to understand the issues and contextual factors within the region while also forming networks that will be vital for future career opportunities.”

(5)       Current projects

This year’s report includes updates on our current projects. COVID has impacted the ability of some of these projects to develop as initially anticipated, however they continue to progress albeit at a slower pace – a by-product of the pandemic.

(6)       Operations

This year the new website was launched, and this completes the refresh of the Foundation’s “image” which commenced in 2019. The feedback received has been positive and supported the view that the new contemporary design encapsulated the values, messaging and initiatives of the Foundation.

(7)       Financial Strategy

The Foundation’s investments have continued to strengthen and as at 30 June 2020 the portfolio has increased in value and at 30 June 2021 is valued at $23.2m.

As you can see, we are continuing to move forward by building the capacity of the Foundation as well as engaging in partnerships and initiatives that will benefit girls and women through our STEM focus.

In concluding my report, I would like to acknowledge our CEO, committee members and Council. Our CEO, Kim Bartlett, continues to provide the Council and the Investment and Finance Committee with excellent support and her committed and dedicated approach to the day-to-day operations of the Foundation is greatly appreciated.

The Investment and Finance Committee chaired by Anne Sarros and members Heather Schnagl (Treasurer), Judith Potter, John Symons and Neil Tonkin and our investment advisor Ms Sandi Tuddenham of Bell Potter continue to provide strong management of the Foundation’s investment portfolio, which is reflected in the current financial accounts. During the course of the year the Committee has continued to meet regularly to ensure that the management of the investments is responsive to the economic environment. Thank you to all of the members of this Committee for your dedicated approach, it is greatly appreciated.

The members of the Council – Susan Just, Meg Hansen, Judith Potter, Lisa Ronald, Anne Sarros and Heather Schnagl – continue to provide exemplary service and commitment to the Foundation, the advancement of the education of girls and women and continued focus on STEM education. As always, I thank them for their contribution and their support – it is such a privilege and a pleasure to be the Chair of The Invergowrie Foundation.

As we move towards 2022 and the 30th anniversary of The Invergowrie Foundation, we continue to be uniquely placed to support issues that provide opportunities, as well as those that limit and restrict opportunities, for girls and women to advance their education. In doing so, we continue to build on the legacy of those who have gone before us.

Wendy Lewis
Chair

September 2021

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