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Central Equity co-founder honoured

08 Jul 2020

Central Equity co-founder honoured Image

By Sean Car

Southbanker Eddie Kutner, one of the co-founders of prominent Southbank developer Central Equity, was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on the Queen’s Birthday last month.

The German-born Kutner, who migrated to Australia as young person with his family in the 1950s, was recognised last month for his contributions to property development, financial sectors and science.

While he described the recognition for his work as an honour, he said it was only due to the “village” of people who had supported him, namely his wife of more than 50 years and his family as well as Central Equity co-founders John Bourke and Dennis Wilson.

But while he acknowledged the “stability” that the people close to him had always provided, he pointed back to his earliest memories of arriving in Australia in reflecting upon what it meant to be recognised in such a context.

“I can recall even from the very early days when we got here my father’s guidance to me was to ‘embrace Australia’,” he said. “Sure, you bring some multicultural aspects, but the main game is to embrace Australia – that was one of the main messages when we got here.”

It’s a powerful message when one considers the impact such words have had on Mr Kutner’s life since.

One only has to take a look to Central Equity’s staggering contribution in creating what we know today as Southbank. Since its first completed Southbank development in 1995, its 29th – Focus on City Rd – is currently coming out of the ground.

From its first developments in Carlton in the 1980s, Central Equity has gone on to become one of Melbourne’s biggest developers and he said the greatest source of pride, particularly in Southbank, came from helping create a sense of community.

“When I walk down the street and I see people walking up and down the footpath shopping or in their gym gear it’s a great source of pride that you’ve actually contributed to creating a community,” he said.

“I sit here in Southbank and I look out at the buildings and I’m proud of all the other developers’ buildings just as proud as I am of mine. It’s pretty unique and it’s come together.”

His success in property development has also allowed him to pursue some of his other great passions in science and art.

He said that as a young man he had the choice to go commercial or scientific in his professional pursuits. While science “wasn’t recognised as something you could make a living out of” at the time, he said that it was “all around us.”

Through his long association with National Science and Technology Centre Questacon, he founded not-for-profit science-arts organisation Wonderment Walk in 2013. The initiative, which aims to create accessible open-air galleries of sculptures and installations that combine science, mathematics and art, has already seen projects commissioned throughout Melbourne.

Its next project, Waterlines by artist Ian Strange, has been donated to the City of Port Phillip. It will be placed at Kirrip Park across from the new South Melbourne Primary School in Southbank and represents the area’s association with water and flooding.

“It’s not just the sculpture because it’s across the road from the new school and we’re putting together an education package, so hopefully all the kids will come and they’ll study ecology, water flooding, low-lying areas, the impact of urbanisation so to me that’s all science. Every day you walk through it. You live through it,” Mr Kutner said.

“It’s our backyard. We’re all now designing buildings that deal with it so when there is flooding it doesn’t affect the security, nor the ambiance of the place.”

While it felt “surreal” looking back to when it all began in Australia for Eddie, he said it had been a privilege to contribute to Australia by doing what he loved.

“It’s great to do what you love. It becomes part of your life as opposed to a job,” he said •

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