20 years of cancer research support from the Helpman family

20 years of cancer research support from the Helpman family

A family with one of the most famous names in Australian performing arts has left a generous legacy to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Managed by Australian Executor Trustees, the estates of Maxwell Gardiner Helpman and Sheila Mary Helpman, along with The Helpmann Family Foundation, have provided more than $3.2 million over the past 20 years to cancer research at the Institute. Their support for the Institute’s work highlights not just their generosity but the lives of three prominent Australian artists of the 20th century.

A family of cultural icons

Maxwell and Sheila were the younger siblings of Sir Robert Helpmann, ballet dancer, actor, producer, director and choreographer who worked with famous artists such as Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev. But it was not only Sir Robert who pursued a career in the arts: Maxwell and Sheila were also active in film and theatre.

Maxwell Helpman built a career as an actor, director and manager in Canada and Britain. Sheila Helpman’s career spanned theatre, film and television in Britain and Australia, and marked its end with a stage appearance in Ontario, Canada in 1988.

The Helpman family’s philanthropy

The Helpman family has left an extraordinary legacy. Distributions from their estates have contributed to world-class cancer research at the Institute, including advances in treatment for leukaemia, bowel cancer and breast cancer.

Institute director Professor Doug Hilton says the Helpman family has played an important role in the Institute’s history. "The generosity of the Helpman family has had a substantial impact on the Institute’s cancer research. We are honoured to be linked to a family who has contributed so richly to Australian cultural life."

Visiting the Institute

Head of Philanthropy at Australian Executor Trustees, Ben Clark, recently visited the Institute to meet with Professor Hilton, Deputy Director Professor David Vaux, and cancer researcher and laboratory head Dr Leigh Coultas.

"Australian Executor Trustees supports Australians and their advisers to make a lasting impact through philanthropy. We are proud to honour the wishes of the Helpman family through supporting the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and steward their perpetual charitable trust," Mr Clark said.


Institute researchers with trustee representative
L-R: Dr Leigh Coultas, Professor David Vaux, Mr Ben Clark, Professor Doug Hilton AO


Last modified: 
Tue, 04/05/2021 - 8:53am