Philanthropy Sydney-Style

Julia Horne


The University of Sydney was the greatest single beneficiary of philanthropy in nineteenth-century New South Wales, and probably in nineteenth-century Australia. The current historiography on philanthropy in colonial Australia mostly addresses the question of charitable benefaction, money given to Churches and benevolent societies to help the destitute and the sick. But from the foundation of universities in Australia, with the University of Sydney being the first, philanthropists and benefactors were crucial to the plans of University leaders to create a liberal, non-denominational and secular university.

This paper explores why people gave money to the University of Sydney in its first five decades, and how this philanthropy was part of an emerging sense of collective public responsibility towards upholding the key ideals of newly-created public institutions.