SVI Support Group Black Tie Dinner

Posted: 04th October 2017

Since 1989, a group of like-minded and committed women, who make up the SVI Support Group, have organised fundraising events to support the Institute. Today, 29 years after its foundation, seven of the original 33 are still active members of the Group. 

The Group’s events eventually morphed into an annual dinner to provide ‘Top-up Scholarships’ to support SVI’s Honours and PhD students. Incredibly, since 2005 their dinners have raised more than $400,000, and provided financial support to 34 Honours and 44 PhD students. 

“It all started when Professor Jack Martin, who was the Director of SVI at the time, and Jock Chappell, who was Chair of the Institute, contacted me and asked if I would organise a function to raise money for the Institute,” said Claire. 

“I set up a committee with Jack’s wife Christine, who had cancer at the time. Sadly, Christine has passed away, but she has left a great legacy. Essentially, it was Christine and Jack’s friendship, and the quality of research that the Institute does, that was the motivation for us to do some fundraising. Our first event was a Christmas Ball, held at the Hilton Hotel. 

“We take great pride in supporting SVI’s wonderful students. The calibre of their work continues to inspire us to help them do the best they can. We know we’re supporting the quiet achievers as well as the leaders of tomorrow – it takes all kinds of researchers to make the discoveries that can change people’s lives,” said Claire. 

The SVI Support Group also arrange for secondary science students from Melbourne’s Genazzano FCJ College to visit the Institute each year, so that they can gain insight into the intricate workings of a biomedical laboratory.

In 2014, PhD student and scholarship student, Alvin Ng, said, “Although most PhD students receive a scholarship from the Australian government or the University, the living allowance is less than the minimum wage. With the support of the Scholarship, I do not have to worry about keeping a roof over my head or putting food on the table. Most importantly, I can focus my time on my research projects, which means getting closer to the answers that our research aims to resolve.” 

PhD student Jasmina Markulic, who received a Top-up Scholarship in 2015, said, “When I started, I thought ‘How could I support myself, work part-time to cover the cost of living, and put in the hours required?’ The Top-Up Scholarships give us the financial security we need to focus on our research projects, bringing us one step closer to finding a cure in our chosen field of research.” Jasmina is currently in the second year of her PhD in SVI’s Structural Biology Unit.

Former recipients of SVI’s Top-up Scholarship now work across the world in well-known tertiary and research hubs such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard.

The Support Group members are always keen to get to know the Top-Up Scholarship students, and are invited to annual presentations by the recipients, so they learn more about the research projects they are working on.

When asked what the highlights have been for the Support Group, Claire says, “Well, the fact we can still get together each year and get people who are happy to support the Institute and attend the event is the highlight for me. We look forward to celebrating 28 years of fundraising at our Annual Support Group Dinner in October this year; then we’ll start planning for next year!” 

This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of Research Australia's Inspire magazine.

This year's Support Group Dinner takes place on Thursday, 19th October.