Our History

The Reichstein Legacy

Lance Reichstein, founder of the Reichstein Foundation, was born in 1900 in Morchard, South Australia, the youngest of six children. The son of strongly religious (German Lutheran) parents, his childhood was strict and sombre. Education, religion, independence of thought, commitment and dedication were highly valued in the Reichstein household – and Lance excelled. A scholarship allowed him to complete a school education, to continue to the University of Adelaide and then to have a long and successful career as an engineer, industrialist, entrepreneur and civic leader.

Lance founded Industrial Engineering Limited in 1928 in the western suburbs of Melbourne, and through risk taking, innovation and a growing post-war economy, IEL became one of Australia’s leading heavy engineering and manufacturing firms.

During the fifteen years he served as a Councillor of the City of Melbourne, Lance’s campaign slogan was The Man of Action.

He was also a man of strong principle and insight, and instinctively understood a moral obligation to exercise power and wealth for the whole community. His establishment of the Reichstein Foundation in 1970 reflected his strong sense of duty and compassion. When he died in 1980, Lance left an additional gift of $6 million to the Foundation for this purpose.

Since then, under the leadership of his daughter Jill Reichstein, the Foundation has leveraged this asset in support of thousands of projects that have empowered the disadvantaged; promoted human rights and equal opportunity; and achieved greater environmental sustainability.

Jill is described by the Australian Financial Review as the nation’s ‘Change Agent Provocateur’.

Building the Philanthropic Sector

We have shared space and resources with many others also seeking to give for the common good, including the Small Change Foundation (later the Education Foundation); Lumbu Foundation; Melbourne Community Foundation (later the Australian Communities Foundation); Donkey Wheel Foundation; Pilotlight Australia (later Igniting Change); Dot Philanthropy;  the Australian Women Donors Network and the Family Business Office.

A major initiative was a series of establishment grants and investments of time and skills from 1988 to 1996 for the fledgling Australian Association of Philanthropy. From these seeds Philanthropy Australia has flowered and is now the peak body responsible for promoting giving and developing the philanthropic sector in Australia.