Macfarlane Fund celebrated for its leadership

Macfarlane Fund celebrated for its leadership
Kaylah Joelle Baker

Creative Partnerships Australia has announced its 2022 Creative Partnerships Award winners and among the highly celebrated list are Helen and Melissa Macfarlane, who established The Macfarlane Fund.

Awarded with the Emerging Philanthropy Leadership Award, The Macfarlane Fund was nominated by Southbank’s Australian Contemporary Centre for Arts (ACCA) for its long-standing commitment to the arts institute.

“For ACCA as an organisation, the multi-year commitment from the Macfarlanes has afforded us financial certainty and sustainability,” ACCA artistic director and CEO Max Delany said.

“For the artists, the series offers an all-too-rare opportunity to make major new work, something that they may not have been able to achieve otherwise.”

Reflecting on the philanthropic funding organisation, Mr Delany said ACCA had a “true partnership” with the Macfarlanes and it was “pleased” that their creative and flexible approach had been recognised nationally.

“Like ACCA, Helen and Melissa Macfarlane are committed to doing things differently, and have a genuine enthusiasm for artists and the art-making process which has made the relationship rewarding for all of us,” Mr Delany said. 

The Macfarlane Fund was established in memory of philanthropist, former CEO of Amcor and life-long arts enthusiast Don Macfarlane, by Don’s wife Helen and daughter Melissa. Following his passing, they have continued on with his legacy, interests, and embodying his ethos through The Macfarlane Fund. 

“There was never any discussion over what to donate to, it was always going to be visual arts,” Melissa said. 

“That was my father’s first love as well as mine and my mother’s. We believe that art will always be made, but well-funded art will take the artist to the next level. For us it’s about opportunities for the artists.”


The Macfarlane Fund currently has a multi-year commitment with ACCA in the form of a commissions series which allows artists with the rare opportunity to produce and make major new works. The biennial exhibition series has been seen as critical in allowing for ACCA to have financial certainty and sustainability and has to this date been the single largest gift the organisation has received. 


After being recognised for their efforts in championing Australian artists, Helen and Melissa said they felt “grateful” and “incredibly humbled” to have been chosen for the recent award.

“We set out to do philanthropy differently and we achieved this in six years. It’s very rewarding for our board as well, who donate their time to steer the fund,” they said. 

“Philanthropy is a journey that we are privileged to be able to go on. We are aiming for best practice [and] our relationship with ACCA is genuine and has a collaborative feel.”

Eight other leaders in private giving, philanthropy, and business partnerships with the arts were also recognised and awarded for their efforts. 

Joining The Macfarlane Fund on the list of 2022 Creative Partnerships Award winners are:

  • Arts Visionary Award – Ulrike Klein AO   
  • Philanthropy Leadership Award – Neilson Foundation
  • Philanthropy Leadership Award – Paul Taylor   
  • Business Leadership Award – John Albrecht  
  • Arts Leadership Award – Barbara Moore

Local supporters of Melbourne’s arts sector have been on the rise according to Creative Partnerships Australia, and the past 12 months has seen more than 500 campaigns on the Australian Cultural Fund platform. The fund also had more than 9192 donations from art lovers and philanthropists, with 8201 of them being first-time donors. Reflecting on this year’s winners, Creative Partnerships Australia CEO Fiona Menzies said the partnerships and relationships formed between the recipients and arts organisations were “characterised by a mutual understanding of the value of the arts and culture in the Australian community”. 

“These are relationships built over time; time spent listening and exchanging ideas, in order to truly understand each other’s needs and objectives,” Ms Menzies said. 

“They are not only generous supporters, but they have become ambassadors for the work and organisations they support.” •

Join our Facebook Group