$12.3 million for the University of Melbourne

Greg and Kay Poche have given $10 million to the University of Melbourne in the same month it announced a $2.3 million gift from John Higgins. Liz Henderson outlines these latest big donations to the university sector.

The founder and former owner of Star Track Express, Greg Poche (right), and his wife Kay, have given $10 million to create the University of Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, aiming to achieve 20 new PhD enrolments for indigenous people in health by 2020.

The couple have now given more than $115 million to causes around Australia including over $40 million towards improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Their latest gesture follows a similar $10 million injection into The University of Western Australia last November, along with donations to establish sister Poche Centres at Flinders University in Adelaide and the University of Sydney.

“Improving the health and wellbeing of indigenous Australians is one of our nation’s biggest challenges and it is vital that we do everything we can,” said Greg. “Greg and I are determined that the Poche Centres will make a big difference,” Kay added.

Less than two weeks ago the university also received a $2.3 million boost from John Higgins (left), a Campaign for the University of Melbourne board member, to strengthen research and teaching in the field of positive psychology. “Psychology has traditionally supported people to move from minus ten to zero,” Higgins said. “What I love about positive psychology is it helps people move from zero to plus ten.”

Higgins has traced his interest in positive psychology to the writings of experts in the field, Professor Martin Seligman of Pennsylvania University. “I became intrigued by how easy it was to influence positively a person’s thinking – the end result being one could live a happier, more fulfilled life.”

Specifically the gift will fund the creation of the Gerry Higgins Chair of Positive Psychology within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. This will be the fourth academic post created at the university in honour of Higgins’ father Gerry Higgins, now in his 80s, who founded a successful commercial painting business, Higgins Coatings, after emigrating to Australia from Kiltimagh, Ireland, in 1949.

The idea is to help build the field of psychology which the university says has seen the most growth over the last 20 years, after attributes like optimism, joy, courage, resilience and dignity were linked by scientists with health, academic, career and social success.

Higgins vision is that positive psychology will transform the life of every school student. “One day it will be as fundamental to education as the three Rs of education are today,” he said.

Liz Henderson is editor of Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine.

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