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Our Story Together

Our founders, Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM, meet with members of our giving community.

As with all communities, our story is one of evolution

We’ve been making strategic philanthropy accessible since 1997 when our founders, Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM, pioneered the community foundation model in Australia, establishing Melbourne Community Foundation which became Australian Communities Foundation in 2011.

As a community foundation, we’ve grown and learned a lot along the way. One thing that hasn’t changed is the special role we play in Australia’s philanthropic ecosystem and our commitment to being collaborative, agile, responsive and risk-tolerant.

Today, our giving community includes people from all walks of life, from across the nation, serving communities that span geography, gender, race, identity, culture and more. What unites us is an intention to use whatever resources we have, to make things better for people and our planet.

Together, we’re creating a fairer Australia – one where social, environmental and cultural justice is the norm.

Our Timeline


25 Years of Giving

The Early Years


First independent community foundation in Australia

Melbourne Community Foundation is established by Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM.

Marion Webster OAM


First major initiative launched

Inclusive Communities Project


Leaving home

The Foundation moves out of Marion's spare bedroom and into its first professional office space in Flinders Lane, courtesy of the Reichstein Foundation.

Themed funds

The first themed funds are created to bring even more donors into the collective giving model.


Milestone: $1 million in grants given to the community


Sharpening our focus

The Foundation sharpens its focus on strategic initiatives with the help of US community foundation expert, Dorothy Reynolds.


Milestone: 30 new funds and over $1 million in grants distributed in a year


Raising our profile

Peter Hero, then CEO of the highly successful Silicon Valley Community Foundation in the US, helps raise the profile of Melbourne Community Foundation in the community, later joining the Board.

The team in 2006: Trudy Wyse, Andrea Heffernan, Leonie Mugavin, Raz Babic


Phase 1 of MacroMelbourne launched to bring sectors together to develop strategic responses to disadvantage, with the model laying the foundations for the later development of the Impact Fund.


25 Years of Giving

Becoming a
National Community


Milestone: 100+ funds

Scholarship Fund

Scholarship Fund is launched to support scholarship providers.

Developing our sector

The Foundation supports the emergence of the peak body for community foundations.

Peter Hero, Hayden Raysmith AM and Peter Singer AC at our 10th-anniversary celebration in 2007.


Gumnut Accounts

Gumnut Accounts are launched to help new givers build their own Named Funds.


Indigenous Donor Circle

The first formal Learning Circle is established to bring together donors interested in supporting Indigenous communities.


Taking the national stage

Melbourne Community Foundation becomes Australian Communities Foundation, reflecting its national presence and scope.


Milestone: Over $5 million in grants distributed in a year and our community reaches 200 funds

Top 50 Philanthropic Gifts

Marion Webster OAM and Hayden Raysmith AM honoured in Australia’s Top 50 Philanthropic Gifts for establishing the community foundation structure in Australia.


Milestone: $50 million in funds under management


ESG investing

The Foundation transitions to an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment approach, seeking the best outcomes for the corpus, people and the planet.

Social justice advocate Shen Narayanasamy presents to our Refugee and Asylum Seeker Donor Circle in 2015.


25 Years of Giving

Creating a Fairer Australia


Best Small Grant Award

The Foundation's Refugee and Asylum Seeker Donor Circle wins Best Small Grant at the Australian Philanthropy Awards.

Launch of the Impact Fund

The Foundation hones its focus on impact to target the key areas of social, cultural and environmental justice, and launches flagship fund for collective giving, the Impact Fund.


First Impact Fund grants

$600,000 awarded to seven projects in the inaugural Impact Fund Large Grants round.


Indigenous Philanthropy Award

Woor-Dungin, ACF, the BB and A Miller Fund and the Williams Fund are recognised at the Australian Philanthropy Awards for the Criminal Record Discrimination Project.

DivestInvest announcement

The Foundation commits to divesting its $90 million corpus investment portfolio from fossil fuels and focusing on investments with positive environmental outcomes.

Community of Giving Hub

The Foundation establishes the Community of Giving as Australia's first formal philanthropic hub with the support of our giving community, the Reichstein Foundation and others.

Launching the Community of Giving in 2018: Maree Sidey, Jill Reichstein OAM, David Murray, Amanda Martin OAM, Hayden Raysmith AM, John Spierings.

Victoria's first Indigenous-led philanthropic fund

Members of Towards A Just Society, an ACF fund, hand over the fund to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders to establish Koondee Woonga-gat Toor-rong.

Koondee Woonga-gat Toor-rong handover ceremony, Yarra Park, 2018.


Environmental Philanthropy Award

Seven ACF funds recognised at the Australian Philanthropy Awards for their collective support of the Community Organising Fellowship.


First impact investments

The Foundation announces its first impact investments, which are in the environmental and First Nations sectors.


Responsible Investment Leader

The Foundation becomes the first philanthropic foundation in Australia to sign on to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, and is named Responsible Investment Leader by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.

100% responsible investing

The Foundation meets its target of 100 per cent of its portfolio being responsibly invested.

Best Grant Program

The Rapid Advocacy Fund, a collaboration between Australian Progress, ACOSS and Australian Communities Foundation, wins Best Grant Program at the 2021 Australian Philanthropy Awards.

Milestone: Over $100m in grants given to the community


Five years of the Impact Fund

Our community celebrates five years of the Impact Fund - over $5m granted to changemakers tackling the biggest issues facing Australia.

Celebrating five years of the Impact Fund at the Victorian Pride Centre in 2022.

About Us

We are a community of giving, powered by a courageous ambition for a fairer and more sustainable Australia.