Your philanthropy at work

Gifts to the COVID-19 Emergency Appeal contribute to change

In troubling times, communities pull together to help those in need.

Support from the University of Melbourne community over the last few months has been overwhelming, with more than 1,400 donors contributing through the COVID-19 Emergency Appeal. These gifts have provided vital financial relief to students experiencing hardship and given a critical boost to research efforts to prevent, test and treat COVID-19.

Along with donations to the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a joint venture partnership between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, contributions toward COVID-19 relief efforts total more than $17 million.

Find out how your generosity is accelerating the University’s response to COVID-19 and making a real difference in the lives and livelihoods of so many.

Every gift is making a difference, regardless of size. On behalf of the many students, researchers, patients and families who will benefit from your generosity – thank you.

StudentThe financial crisis brought on by the COVID-19 situation has been especially devastating for students, many of whom have lost income from employment or previously provided family financial support.

As classes shifted to offsite learning in Semester 1, students were met with the additional financial burden of technology upgrades. For some, the ability to continue their studies this year was in jeopardy.

Your donations to the COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund have gone directly to students applying for immediate assistance during this time of financial hardship. Grants from this fund have helped students purchase laptops and other technology for home learning, upgrade their internet, and cover the cost of lost income and travel expenses incurred due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Message of thanks: "I've alredy been 2+ months without work and am probably in the last week of my savings. I cried from relief when I read this, impeccable timing. Thank you so much. This means a lot." Emergency Appeal impact: Your donations at work: 8010 students awarded grants, 13467 applications for assistance, $1110652 contributed by donors.

Current as at 11 September 2020. The Emergency Support Fund is still active and continues to provide support to students.

Message of thanks: "This is going to be such a breakthrough fro me personally. I'd just like tp reiterate, thank you so much. A huge stress on my mind has been saving up for IT to continue studying while paying basic expenses during this crisis. Thank you." View more messages

Home to some of the world’s most renowned researchers and inventors, the University of Melbourne is uniquely positioned to lead Australia's response to the pandemic. Your contributions to the COVID-19 Research Response Fund have gone toward supporting projects that can demonstrate a tangible immediate impact in the global fight against the disease.

Researcher in a lab

Image: The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

One such area that the fund has supported is the COVID-19 Agility Fund within the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (a joint venture partnership between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital). Many of the best ideas in the fight to contain, control and cure COVID-19 are yet to come, as we learn more about this infectious disease day by day. When a vaccine or treatment shows significant promise, the Agility Fund is there to bolster resources to scale up and pursue results, giving that project the greatest chance of success.

This was the case for recent research into saliva testing, supported through the Agility Fund. Professor Deborah Williamson is Director of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Department of Clinical Microbiology and Deputy Director of the University of Melbourne’s Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute.

Professor Williamson’s team have demonstrated the feasibility, acceptability and scalability of collecting saliva in a busy-screening clinic.

“This novel diagnostic approach has been trialled in our laboratory and in labs around the world, and our work suggests this approach may be an alternative to swab testing in some settings.”

The progression of this research puts Australia in an advantageous position to test people easily and effectively, particularly in mass testing situations during an outbreak.

Image of patient inside a ventilation hood.

Image: Penny Stephens / Western Health

Your support of the Research Response Fund was also critical to the production of personal ventilation hoods, designed by researchers from Melbourne School of Engineering in conjunction with Western Health clinicians and allied health professionals. The transparent, movable personal ventilation hood sucks air away from COVID-19 patients, while creating an effective droplet containment barrier for health care personnel.

Professor Jason Monty is the lead researcher and fluid mechanics expert behind the ventilation hood project. After his research team received $55,000 in funding through your donations, he said:

We are grateful for the support of the donor community. Through the funding we received, we were able to manufacture 20 i-hoods and these are out for clinical trials in Footscray and Sunshine Hospitals.

We have also developed a prototype for a smaller, self-powered hood that can be used for ambulances and field hospitals and we are working on beginning clinical trials of this model in the near future.

Donations to the COVID-19 Emergency Appeal have arrived from near and far. They have come from alumni who studied at the University many years ago, to members of our Melbourne community who are feeling for students in need. Gifts have come in from professional staff, from researchers, and from past students who received philanthropic support themselves while at University.

Specific gifts that are making an immediate impact upon both COVID-19 research and student welfare include:

  • One donor who was moved to contribute $500,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Student Support Fund, specifically for international students. This single contribution meant more than 100 international students received immediate support.
  • Contributions totalling $5.35 million from The a2 Milk Company, the Jack Ma Foundation and the Paul Ramsay Foundation, which are helping researchers in the Doherty Institute expedite the creation of a vaccine against COVID-19. Learn more about the science behind the search for a vaccine.
  • Gifts to the Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT), which is a unique national trial that tests two potential treatments for hospitalised COVID-19 patients. ASCOT has received funding totalling $6.14 million from Anthony Pratt and the Pratt Foundation, BHP Foundation, the Minderoo Foundation, the Macquarie Group Foundation and anonymous donors.

On behalf of the many students, researchers, patients and families who will benefit from your generosity – thank you.

Message of thanks: "This grant means a lot to me as an international student. I was feeling hopeless and depressed, thinking that I had to face this financial hardship on my own and couldn't even go home. This support is something I will never forget. Thank you so much everyone who is working for the well-being of students out there."