Partner profile: Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

The Victorian-based philanthropic organisation has committed to support the Our Place Morwell site to address disadvantage and promote the well-being and development of children and families in the community aiming for better educational outcomes.

The funding of Our Place Morwell serves a diverse community with unique contexts and service footprints. At the heart of the partnership is the aspiration that Our Place works towards ensuring that every child in the Morwell community grows up healthy and happy.

Previously the partnership with Helen Macpherson Smith Trust was supporting a groundbreaking research project to improve the outcomes for children in the early years, by creating and validating tools for monitoring children’s learning, development, and wellbeing.

The project, the Early Years Quality Practice Framework, was a precursor to the Victorian Government announcing a range of significant measures in the early years sector and has now ceased. Its achievements include building strong relationships with early years providers and a shared vision for high-quality early years services.

The Trust’s support of Our Place is ‘untied’, meaning that it can go where the need is and where the capacity is warranted, such as the Morwell Our Place site. Its purpose is to support action on things that would otherwise likely go unfunded, Trust CEO Debra Morgan said.

For more than 70 years, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust has supported organisations and projects benefiting Victorians, with over $140 million in grants distributed.

CEO Debra Morgan explains that the Trust prioritises Victorian communities experiencing disadvantage, with support focused on programs in the two areas of education and community.

“We seek to address educational disadvantage through community-based partnerships and to support communities to build connection, capability, and capacity. This brings us to a natural partnership with Our Place, as it straddles our two priority areas of education and community.”

Debra Morgan

Debra said the Trust is proud to be able to support Our Place in its mission, and is also learning from Our Place, so it’s a mutually beneficial partnership.

“I see it as a benefit for us and other philanthropic funders to be involved with Our Place and to continue to learn together. In pursuit of systemic impact, the Trust is committed to listening and walking alongside our partners. We all benefit from the collective wisdom gleaned across the Our Place sites,”

Debra Morgan

Central to the Trust’s strategy is bringing key experts in areas that they are funding together to have conversations about real world practice, themes, and implementation areas. Learning from the Our Place journey is helping to shape and inform its granting portfolio and decision making when looking at giving to different organisations.

“This aligns with the key value of prioritising learning at the Trust, the focus on convening, collaborating and the sharing knowledge. Our Place provides an insight into these learnings, and is generous with its knowledge, and lived experience through the sites and through rich conversations and sharing that occur at Our Place’s Philanthropic Alliance roundtable,” Debra said. 

Further information about the work of Helen Macpherson Smith Trust can be found at