Vale Harold Mitchell
Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC, on behalf of the Board, staff and students, would like to express his sadness at the death of Harold Mitchell AC, one of Australia’s great businessmen and philanthropists.
His death was confirmed on Saturday by the Harold Mitchell Foundation. He was 81.
Harold was a strong supporter of medical research through his various roles as Chair of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and Chair of the Harold Mitchell Foundation, which generously supported the medical research sector, including Burnet Institute.
“Harold was larger than life and was an inspirational figure to all who knew him. He was also a treasured friend of Burnet,” Professor Crabb said.
“He was a visionary when it came to support for medical research. He understood the significant contribution research makes to improving the health of all Australians and those in our region. He also appreciated the complex challenges faced by many research organisations, especially the lack of funding to support young, talented early-career scientists.”
In 2000, Harold founded the Harold Mitchell Foundation to support health, education and the arts. The foundation has since contributed more than AUD $10 million in funding across Australia and the Indo-Pacific, including Timor Leste.
Through his foundation, Harold established the Harold Mitchell postgraduate and postdoctoral travel fellowships at Burnet (worth $15,000 a year), which have been presented annually since 2007 to early-career researchers to enable them to present their research internationally.
Many young scientists across Australia have benefited significantly from this philanthropic support.
Harold was also instrumental in helping Burnet establish its Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program, based in Papua New Guinea.
He was a driving force behind its launch in Port Moresby in 2013, alongside the then Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Bob Carr, and his counterpart in Papua New Guinea, the Hon Rimbink Pato OBE.
“Our Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Program – through which we have learned a great deal about the tremendous barriers to a healthy start to life in PNG – would not have achieved what it has without Harold’s involvement,” Professor Crabb said.
Harold was awarded Australia's highest civilian honour, a Companion of the Order of Australia, in 2010 for his leadership and philanthropic endeavours across the arts, health and education, adding to his support of Timor Leste, and Indigenous communities.
He was awarded Research Australia’s Great Australian Philanthropy Award in 2012 and in the same year, a Doctor of Laws honoris causa, the highest honour from the University of Melbourne.
He was a national finalist for Australian of the Year in 2013.
“Harold was a great Australian, whose contribution to our nation cannot be underestimated. He will be greatly missed by us and everyone who knew him,” Professor Crabb said.
“We extend our deepest condolences to Harold’s family and friends.”