Creating change
through generosity

Every gift, regardless of its size, is capable of creating an immediate difference in the lives of students and the outcomes of research at UQ.

Each year, UQ community members support research that cures disease, protects crops, and builds stronger economies. They also help fund scholarships that allow students of all backgrounds to attend and succeed at university.

Take, for example, Darren Vaotuua (Bachelor of Science ’02, Master of Physiotherapy Studies ’05, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery ’16), a senior physiotherapist who yearned to make a positive impact on society as a doctor.

“Talking it over with my wife and kids, we added up the cost of leaving a position as a senior physiotherapist for the student life studying Medicine at UQ,” Vaotuua said.

“We had a mortgage and two beautiful girls who needed nurturing and support to chase their own dreams and so it didn’t make sense, it didn’t add up, but we just knew it was right.”

Vaotuua said that despite trying his hardest to balance work, family and study commitments, the crunch came when he started medical rotations in the final two years of his degree.

“As my studies progressed, going into the rotation years, medicine asked for more of my time.

“I needed to work less during weekends and on the holidays, but we could not afford for me to cut back… in the end work helped me, but by cutting my hours.”

Vaotuua said he was fortunate enough to be able to continue his studies after he was awarded the TV Stubbs-Brown Medical Student Scholarship, a scholarship established by Ailsa Munro in memory of her late husband, who was an orthopaedic surgeon.

“The TV Stubbs-Brown Medical Student Scholarship came in and made such a difference, it was really an answered prayer,” Vaotuua said.

“Almost the exact amount I would lose in income by having my hours cut was made up by the support received by that scholarship.”

“To the family of Ailsa Munro and Dr TV Stubbs-Brown, my family and I are forever indebted.”

People who give to UQ to support students such as Vaotuua range from everyday donors, whose regular weekly donations help hundreds of students throughout their studies, to those that have had more financial success in their lives and want to give back.

The extraordinary impact of philanthropy is not new at UQ. The University owes the very land it stands on to the generosity of the Mayne siblings, who funded the purchase of the St Lucia and Herston campuses.

Today, the sandstone pillars of UQ are fortified by the generosity of the men and women who ensured future generations had access to higher education and groundbreaking research.

Gifts to UQ over the years have varied in size. While major gifts have provided world-leading institutes and locations, the gifts of many individuals have afforded countless students the opportunity to improve their educational outcomes and career prospects.

UQ Director of Development and Philanthropy Andrew Pentland said some of the greatest gifts UQ had received were small or non-financial in nature.

“Philanthropy is not a club you have to join. Anyone can be a philanthropist because it’s not just for the rich and it’s not about the size of the gift,” Pentland said.

“The positive impact you can have on someone’s life through philanthropy is an experience anyone can share, no matter their wealth.”

To this day, the generosity of donors at UQ has produced almost 100 Rhodes Scholars, decreased the rate of cervical cancer-causing infections in Australian women by 86 per cent, and provided a myriad of students with the opportunity to study and thrive at university.

As funding for universities undergoes significant change, UQ relies more than ever on donors to fill the gap between the acceptable and the extraordinary. It is this extra funding that maintains the value of our degrees and enables UQ’s teaching and research to surpass expectations and create change.

With this in mind, the focus of philanthropy at UQ has shifted towards empowering student success, driving discovery and impact, and transforming teaching and learning.

Empowering student success

Students are at the heart of everything UQ does, which is why we strive towards every capable young student who needs support having access to a scholarship, in addition to career-building work, research and travel opportunities.

For Darren Vaotuua, a scholarship was confirmation that he made the correct decision in stepping down from a career in physiotherapy to become an orthopaedic surgeon.

“It is so much more than simply the financial aspect of receiving a scholarship that has meant so much to me,” he said.

“In a highly competitive world like medicine, the affirmation that you are on the right path is so encouraging.

“Scholarships like this fuel and support dreams.”

Driving discovery and impact

Stroke survivor and QBI researcher Dr Lavinia Codd.

A ‘transformational’ new gift to UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) will support a new clinical interface at the facility, providing the Brisbane community with access to some of the world’s top neurological disease researchers.

The gift from The Brazil Family Foundation has been split between two areas, with $1 million put towards Motor Neurone Disease (MND) research, and $4 million funding stroke research.

QBI Director Professor Pankaj Sah said the gift would support the Institute’s move towards a clinical interface, increasing exposure between researchers and the patients they work so hard to help.

“The Brazil family are incredibly generous and they are passionate about understanding, managing and preventing neurological disease,” Sah said.

“They have been extremely humble about the impact their generosity has had on medical research; however, I feel compelled to highlight just how powerful this gift of $5 million is for QBI."

“Coming into the role with a background in medicine, it was my vision as Director to add a clinical arm to the Institute, allowing us to engage more heavily with the people burdened by neurological diseases and disorders.

“Having researchers and clinicians work side-by-side absolutely accelerates research, which is why The Brazil Family Foundation gift will be so transformative to stroke and MND research at QBI.”

The gift will support the work of QBI scientists such as Dr Lavinia Codd, a stroke survivor turned researcher and advocate, whose research is looking at ways to improve recovery.

“This gift means everything to me,” Codd said.

“As a stroke survivor and a stroke researcher, I am humbled and inspired by The Brazil Family Foundation’s gift to QBI.

“I feel the Brazils have truly chosen the right area to fund; their gift will be game changing, and will have an immense impact on the outcomes of stroke survivors.”

UQ’s research strengths lie in healthy development and ageing, feeding the world, resilient environments, technology for tomorrow, and transforming societies. Philanthropic funding drives research in these areas by offering brilliant students and researchers the means to discover new solutions to both existing and emerging world issues.

For more information about the Queensland Brain Institute, visit

Transforming the learning environment

UQ’s mission is not just to attract the world’s best teachers and researchers, but to cultivate and retain future generations of thought leaders by providing them with opportunities to advance their careers.

The Osiecki Travel Scholarship for Classics Research is an example of how donors have supported this mission at UQ, by helping students utilise overseas educational opportunities to develop a global perspective that provides them with cutting-edge skills.

As UQ is the only Queensland university to offer courses across all areas of the history, archaeology, culture, language and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome, scholarships such as the Osiecki Travel Scholarship for Classics Research ensure Australia can continue to produce leading scholars in these areas.

This scholarship has offered students like Dustin McKenzie (Master of Philosophy, Ancient History and Classics), first-hand access to the artefacts, texts and locations they are studying.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on three different overseas programs with UQ and each of them have been funded by scholarships,” McKenzie (pictured) said.

“I could not have had these educational travel opportunities without the support of a travel scholarship.

“This is what I want to do with my life, and the opportunity to visit these sites and see the landscapes and materials first-hand has really helped me to carry on and succeed.”

McKenzie’s current research, which focuses on the landscapes of Sicily, immensely benefited from his ability to travel to the Mediterranean where he could access both the physical landscapes and original texts of authors he is examining.

Continuing to cultivate students like McKenzie and attract, train and retain experts across various fields is a priority for UQ, one that is only made possible through donor support.