“It was the way he felt about people – he wanted to listen to people, to hear them. His motivation was to do things, to do deals, to get things done, to make a difference."
The history and values upon which we were founded are those of Paul Ramsay. Paul’s generous legacy is Australia’s largest philanthropic foundation. The Foundation is not only a testament to his deep empathy, collaborative spirit and disruptive thinking, it is Paul’s enduring commitment to those less fortunate. It is his resolute belief in action: that empathy, collaboration and new thinking can transform people’s lives.
“A man with a wide political outlook, one who had great faith in the future of his native country; a man with a big, warm heart and a great love for his fellow man.”
Paul was born in Sydney on 31 January 1936. The son of Oscar and Mary Chapman. Looking out for and caring for others was a strong family trait. His civic-minded grandfather, Sir Austin Chapman, championed the foundation of Canberra and the introduction of the old-age pension. Paul’s sister spoke of their formative years growing up in a run-down country house in Burradoo, New South Wales, shared with his grandmother and two great aunts. “It taught Paul and me how to get on with older people. It taught us to listen to them. It taught us patience and the value of their wisdom”.
“His love of people was what drove him. He had a joy in seeing people educated, in encouraging and supporting young people to succeed.”
In 1949, as a 13 year-old Paul starts his secondary schooling as a boarder at St Ignatius College, Sydney.
Paul later starts then drops out of a law degree at The University of Sydney. Instead of formal education, he embraces travelling, trying his hand at different ventures and most informatively, meeting people from diverse backgrounds quite different from his own.
“He was brave, and never afraid to make bold decisions. He was a man who had the courage of his own convictions.”
Against the advice of many in his circle, Paul purchases an old guesthouse in Mosman, overcomes bureaucratic challenges and converts “Warrina” into one of Sydney’s first private psychiatric hospitals, with the help of John Ellard, a leading psychiatrist. And so begins a global healthcare business that grows to 460 facilities caring for communities worldwide.
In the early 80s, alongside extraordinary ongoing success in healthcare, Paul makes a foray into media. Having acquired several regional television stations he launches the Prime Network which he goes on to chair for three decades. He also invests in Capital Radio and becomes the largest commercial radio operator in the UK.
“He was one of our great supporters to save the hospital. He had this ability to get to what mattered in people’s lives and support them in it.”
Paul’s company successfully bids for two Australian hospitals dedicated to the repatriation of veterans.
In 1996 Paul defended Darlinghurst’s St Vincent’s Hospital from the state government’s threat of closure. The hospital is at the heart of HIV/AIDS research, care and treatment. As a hospital board member for six years and as a passionate supporter of the community, he collaborates and helps the fight.
“There is nobody who has had a greater impact on the private hospital scene than Paul Ramsay. He was friendly, gregarious and very generous. He accepted that someone who had been so very successful in business, should give back.”
Ramsay Healthcare is floated on the ASX and becomes one of the world’s largest private hospital operators. It currentlly has 460 facilities across ten countries, employing more than 77,000 staff and treating more than 8 million patients each year.
Paul is credited with having transformed private health in Australia.
Image: Paul Ramsay with Michael Siddle
“He believed that in business, people were first and foremost. He would say, "If we look after the patients, and look after the staff, the profits will follow." He was right of course, hospitals are not about bricks and mortar, they're about people.”
Ramsay Health Care continues expanding worldwide, including the acquisition of Capio, the fourth largest private hospital operation in the UK. Meanwhile, at home Paul’s service to the community is recognised by the conferral of an Office of the Order of Australia.
In 2010 Ramsay Health Care builds a major stake in private health care in France. In doing so Paul’s company becomes one of the top five private hospital operators in the world.
In 2014 Paul and Ramsay Health Care celebrate 50 years of service in private health care (pictured, with Dame Edna) and continue delivering care defined by "The Ramsay Way" which was inspired by the values on which Paul based his life.
“He was prepared to take risks. He backed people. There was a loyalty and trust in regard to people, through thick and thin.”
Paul Ramsay passed away on 1 May, 2014, bequeathing $3 billion to the Paul Ramsay Foundation. In doing so, Paul Ramsay made this the largest philanthropic foundation in Australia. Guided by Paul’s life principles, and with his extraordinarily generous bequest, the Foundation sets to work, leaning on Paul’s friends (including Peter Evans, pictured), business partners, and family for guidance.
The Foundation is a testament to his resolute belief in action: that empathy, collaboration and new thinking can transform people’s lives.
“He wanted everybody’s life to improve. What he wanted was for everybody to do well.”
Throughout 2015, Paul’s close friends and colleagues gathered together to plan out how his legacy would be sustained. His long time friends, colleagues, and confidantes Michael Siddle, Peter Evans, Tony Clarke, and inaugural CEO Simon Freeman were instrumental in steering the newly formed foundation.
The 2015 Vision statement emerged: "Empowering people, empowering change. The Paul Ramsay Foundation is committed to identifying the root causes of disadvantage and implementing strategic solutions to empower our communities. We will look to forge long term collaborative partnerships with our peers and fund scalable projects to grow capacity and enable lasting change.”
Around this time we asked the fundamental question:
What does collaboration look like, and how do we partner for maximum impact?
The Foundation started operating as a Foundation in 2016, building partnerships for potential and seeking to break cycles of disadvantage in Australia.
We began new projects in teacher leadership and development, early learning and transition to employment. Our values evolved as we learnt how to work in this new space.
“We bring an expectation that we want to see outcomes, we want to see lives change for the better, we want to see social disadvantage, reduced, if not eliminated.”
By 2017 we started asking ourselves: How do we understand scale and shift systems that are contributing to and causing entrenched disadvantage?
This is where the Foundation started leveraging the power of partnerships and over the year we developed 11 partners.
Early Childhood Development, Mental Health, Healthy Populations and Targeted Prevention, School Education, Education and Work.
By 2018, the Foundation’s thinking had become more nuanced. We started looking at how we develop and nurture the conditions for social change.
At this time, our first long term strategy took shape:
The Foundation aims to develop and nurture the conditions for social change by taking a long-term approach to investing in innovative and evidence-based approaches, developing and disseminating knowledge, building capacity and shifting systems in five key focus areas.
By the end of 2018, our network had grown to 22 partners, and we had begun recruitment for a new CEO.
In May of 2019, we reset our core strategy statement:
The Foundation aims to break the cycle of disadvantage in Australia. We partner with people, communities and organisations to build capability and achieve change that lasts.
Early in 2019, our second CEO, Professor Glyn Davis AC, took the helm.
We began to consider the role of capability as part of the pathway to achieving social impact and addressing the root causes of disadvantage. We agreed to focus on building the capability of the Foundation, our partners and the sectors that we work in.
By the end of the year, we had 31 Partners on board, and we were refining our focus on early childhood development and school education.
Around the world, 2020 marks the beginning of an incredibly challenging time. The COVID-19 pandemic was – and continues to be - an event that altered the course of the Foundation’s work, and the work of our partners.
We responded by forming the ‘Sustaining our Partners’ Taskforce and subsequent program; a deliberate piece of work around alleviating some of the stresses and pressures that the pandemic placed on our partners by allowing more flexibility with funding.
By the end of 2020 we had 82 partners on board and were proud to support their work and sustainability during one of the most challenging times the for-purpose sector has ever seen.
At the end of 2019, the Australian bushfires took hold, causing intense devastation. Early in 2021, the Foundation established the Bushfire Recovery Taskforce, which in turn funded the Bushfire Resilience Program, designed to help bushfire-affected communities experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage.
With this work, the Foundation marked a shift in how it was going to work on transforming the way that we tackle complex social issues, including preparing for, and responding to disasters and the human crises they too often create.
By the end of 2021, we had 114 partners on board with us, working to break cycles of disadvantage.
“Poverty in Australia is not inevitable. With skill, commitment and determination our society can break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.”
2022 saw the Foundation move into its landmark philanthropic headquarters at Yirranma Place. An investment in the future of social purpose in Australia, Yirranma Place heralds a new era in the way that philanthropy can work for social good. It is a space where for-purpose organisations, social enterprises, and people working for social change can collaborate; and for the local community to enjoy.
"We know that people and communities around Australia deserve to have the opportunity to thrive, but it is not a level playing field. PRF is uniquely positioned to help shift the conditions causing these inequities."
In August 2022 Professor Kristy Muir was appointed Paul Ramsay Foundation's third CEO. With a new CEO, came an evolution of our strategy, and we committed to sharpening our focus, increasing our impact and deepening engagement across sectors.
We take a targeted approach to grant-making, working alongside organisations and our philanthropic peers to create change together.
We collaborate with people, communities and organisations who like us, believe in a world where all people can live their best lives.
We fund short and long-term projects from early exploration to substantial investment to achieve change.