Learn About Us
Our Founder and Heritage
The Founder’s Legacy
The founder of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF), Sir Vincent Charles Fairfax, was a fourth generation Australian who served his country in war and peace.
A man of Christian principle and integrity, Vincent Fairfax had a sense of purpose and responsibility in the way he lived his life. This was reflected in his work in a number of major Australian companies, his rural interests and his many charitable and voluntary commitments, as well as his family life.
In 1962, Vincent Fairfax became the first Fairfax in Australia to establish a family charitable trust, which would later become the VFFF. In a note to his family on Christmas Eve 1973, explaining his motivation for establishing the trust, Vincent Fairfax wrote:
‘This action was taken on the basis that my children are well provided for, and hopefully, in their turn will contribute further assets to this Family pot of gratitude for all the benefits we have received since landing in Australia in 1838.’
Now one of the largest family foundations in Australia, the VFFF, like its Founder, has always been low-key and non-publicity seeking.
The imprint of Vincent Fairfax on the VFFF continues to be felt today. He believed that wealth and position brought responsibility and an obligation to serve the community, as epitomised by the oft-quoted verse in Luke 12:48:
‘When a man has been given much, much will be expected of him; and the more a man has had entrusted to him, the more he will be required to repay.’
A young relative of Vincent Fairfax once described his character and values as follows:
‘He was kind, gentle and patient with me. Yet he was determined and unyielding in the high standards he set himself.
He had strong convictions rooted in Christian teaching. Yet he was not judgmental of frailty in others. His approach to life was essentially simple. In his certainties and his transparent integrity, he was incapable of pretension or pomposity. He enjoyed the material benefits of exceptional wealth without vulgarity, ostentation or materialism. He gave back to society in many ways.
He was that rare human being, an essentially good man who lived every facet of his life according to his beliefs.’
Sir Vincent Fairfax
Vincent Fairfax (1909-1993) began his life in rural Queensland at Cambooya near Toowoomba and maintained his links with the land throughout his life.
Sir Vincent was a leading member of the business community, holding numerous directorships and official positions with some of Australia’s major financial firms, organisations with interests in rural Australia and the Anglican Church. He was a Chairman of the AMP and a Director of John Fairfax Limited, publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and other newspapers. He was made a Commander of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1960 and created a Knight Bachelor in 1971.
He was a committed Christian and this was reflected in his activities and support of the Anglican Church, principally in the Sydney Diocese. He regularly attended his parish church at St Mark’s Darling Point and was Rector’s Warden for 23 years.
Throughout his life he was involved in the Boy Scout movement. He became Chief Scout Commissioner of Australia in 1970 and in the following year, was named Father of the Year by the Australia Day Council. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him, Sir Vincent also supported The Boys’ Brigade. These were among the many organisations in which he served in a voluntary capacity. He believed strongly in the volunteer spirit and encouraged it in others.
Despite his many responsibilities, Sir Vincent was always able to give of himself to others. He was patient and generous and those who knew him remember the twinkle in his eye and his delightfully puckish sense of humour. He could set people at ease from all walks of life and he always made time to listen. His integrity and interest in others were strong. As a family man, Vincent Fairfax was in his element. He loved his family and had a wonderful partnership with his wife Nancy.
Throughout his life, Sir Vincent was recognised as a person who maintained an extraordinary capacity for work. He was a philanthropist who believed that wealth and influence brought responsibility and an obligation to serve the community. Influenced by four generations of public-spirited men and women before him, Sir Vincent touched the hearts and lives of many people.
In recognising the legacy of Sir Vincent, it is also important to acknowledge the significant contribution of his widow, the late Nancy Fairfax, to VFFF. Nancy Fairfax was a Founding Trustee of the Foundation which she served with dedication for nearly 40 years. She was Chairman from 1993 to 2001, retiring in 2002 and serving as Patron until her death in 2007.
Nancy Fairfax was made an OBE for her work with kindergarten-level education and the University of New South Wales bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2004. In 2008, she was appointed AO posthumously in the Australia Day Honours List.
She was active in both the Australian Pre-School Association and its successor the Australian Early Childhood Association, serving as President from 1967-77. She was an advocate and lobbyist to governments for the needs and rights of young children and a promoter of the value of early childhood education.
Nancy Fairfax joined the Board of Rachel Forster Hospital in 1960, where she held the position of Vice-President. She was also Honorary Editor of the Countrywoman Journal from 1947-57.
Her death marked the end of an era for VFFF as she was the last of the founding Trustees. Looking for ways to help others, she bequeathed a large part of her estate to the Foundation that her husband founded in 1962..
The Board of VFFF formally acknowledged her generous bequest:
‘Directors of VFFF acknowledge with deep gratitude the very generous bequest to the Foundation from the estate of our late Patron, Lady Fairfax, who died 7th July 2007. This magnificent bequest will help to ensure and enhance the Foundation’s ability to contribute to the betterment of the Australian community over many years.’