Sir John Swanson – Melbourne’s charitable visionary thinker
Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sir John Swanson is acknowledged as the founder and first president of the Lord Mayor’s Fund for Metropolitan Hospitals and Charities.
Sir John was a councillor at the City of Melbourne for almost 10 years from 1914 to 1923 and Lord Mayor from 1920 to 1923. It was during his time as a councillor he realised that Melbourne needed a central and organised fundraising plan to support the expanding needs of the city’s hospitals. He was concerned that the healthcare of a growing population and the rehabilitation needs of returned servicemen and servicewomen from World War 1 would put an immense strain on hospitals services.
Sir John envisioned an endowment scheme to grow an income in perpetuity so that hospitals and charities would receive a reliable income to plan for public healthcare needs and maintenance.
In 1921, Sir John formed a special planning committee made up of representatives from business, government, hospitals and charities. Sir John was aware that the metropolitan hospitals were experiencing difficulties in raising funds for patient services and maintenance and struggling under huge demand for health services. There was also public concern about the consent street appeals, in 1922 32 street appeals had been conducted in the CBD.
After careful research, Sir John looked to the King Edward VII Hospital Fund in London for inspiration and the early beginnings of Melbourne’s first community fund emerged. At a public meeting held in March 1922, the planning committee presented its proposed plans for a centralised fund to the Charities Board, which were approved.
The Lord Mayor's Fund for Metropolitan Hospital and Charities was officially opened by Acting Premier Sir William McPherson and Lord Mayor Sir John Swanson on 14 June 1923 at the Melbourne Town Hall. Mr E. Glanville Hicks was appointed the Fund’s first Secretary and Chief Executive Officer.
When Sir John passed away in February 1924, he left a gift of £500 in his Will to The Lord Mayor’s Fund. This would become the beginning of The Fund’s endowment scheme.
Next Century of Impact article
‘By and For the People of Melbourne’: Establishing the Future of Public Health