A family with one of the most famous names in Australian performing arts has left a generous legacy to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Managed by us at Australian Executor Trustees, the estates of Maxwell Gardiner Helpman and Sheila Mary Helpman, along with The Helpmann Family Foundation1, have provided more than $3.2 million over the past 20 years to cancer research at the Institute. Their support for the Institute’s work highlights not just their generosity but the lives of three prominent Australian artists of the 20th century.

A family of cultural icons

Maxwell and Sheila were the younger siblings of Sir Robert Helpmann1, ballet dancer, actor, producer, director and choreographer who worked with famous artists such as Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev. But it was not only Sir Robert who pursued a career in the arts: Maxwell and Sheila were also active in film and theatre.

Maxwell Helpman built a career as an actor, director and manager in Canada and Britain. Sheila Helpman’s career spanned theatre, film and television in Britain and Australia, and marked its end with a stage appearance in Ontario, Canada in 1988.

The Helpman family’s philanthropy

The Helpman Family has left an extraordinary legacy. Distributions from their estates have contributed to world-class cancer research at the Institute, including advances in treatment for leukaemia, bowel cancer and breast cancer.

Institute director Professor Doug Hilton says the Helpman family has played an important role in the Institute’s history. ‘The generosity of the Helpman family has had a substantial impact on the Institute’s cancer research. We are honoured to be linked to a family who has contributed so richly to Australian cultural life.’

Visiting the Institute

Our Head of Philanthropy, Ben Clark, recently visited the Institute to meet with Professor Hilton, Deputy Director Professor David Vaux, and cancer researcher and laboratory head Dr Leigh Coultas.

‘We support Australians and their advisers to make a lasting impact through philanthropy. We are proud to honour the wishes of the Helpman family through supporting the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and steward their perpetual charitable trust’ Ben said.

L to R: Dr Leigh Coultas (cancer researcher and laboratory head, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), Prof. David Vaux (Deputy Director, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), Ben Clark (Head of Philanthropy, Australian Executor Trustees), Prof. Doug Hilton AO (Director, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute).

To find out more about our philanthropic services, visit the philanthropy section of our website or contact Ben Clark, Head of Philanthropy on Ben.Clark@aetlimited.com.au

1 Did you notice that Sir Robert’s surname has a different spelling to his siblings? Theories abound on this topic, but one popular tale references Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. A devotee of numerology, Pavlova suggested the additional ‘n’ to avoid having the unlucky 13 letters in Sir Robert’s full name.