National Recognition for a Special Family

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Burges family has been honoured at the prestigious Research Australia Health and Medical Research Awards.

The award is recognition for the family's generous support for medical research, spanning two generations.The Bill and Iris Burges Trust received the Great Australian Philanthropy Award for its high impact and transformative quality to Australian health and medical research. Previous recipients include the Myer family, Frank Lowy   AC, the McCusker Charitable Foundation and Andrew and Nicola Forrest.

Bill Burges (Dip Education 1968; B Science 1965) and his brother Stephen (B Engineering (Honours) Civil Engineering 1967; B Science (Physics And Mathematics) 1967) established the Bill and Iris Burges Trust in honour of their parents in 2003, directing funds to progress medical science research at the University of Newcastle. They represent the second generation of the Burges family actively engaged in giving back to their community.

“Medicine wasn’t initially a part of the University,” says Bill. “However, the community, including Mum and Dad, fought hard to get a Faculty of Health. This award is a wonderful tribute to the importance of medical research at our relatively new University.”

The inaugural appointment of the Bill and Iris Burges Professorship in the Medical Sciences in 2012 saw   the  trust provide  the  seed funding for  the  position of Director of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI). This enabled the University to bring internationally acclaimed neuroscientist Professor Michael Nilsson to Newcastle to build a local team working on brain recovery processes after stroke. Professor Nilsson is still at the University, now in the role of Global Innovation Chair of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Stephen and I decided that the best action we could take to help humanity the most was in medical research. That’s where a lot of important developments are happening. We thankfully had a chance to discuss the idea with Dad - I am sure that he and Mum would have been very happy with what we have been able to help achieve, and continue to achieve, in their honour. - Bill Burges

Bill and Steve Burges, with Steve’s wife Sylvia, have donated more than $3.4 million toward the trust since 2003. It now has a balance of more than $4 million and continues to grow – ensuring continued support for health and medical research.

Through the generosity of the Burges family, and many people like them, we are making a critical difference to Australians and beyond with our medical research programs. We are very grateful for their generosity, and honoured to ensure this legacy lives on. -
Professor Brian Kelly (B Medicine 1982), Head of School, School of Medicine and Public Health

Novocastrian Changemakers

Bill and Iris BurgesBill and Iris Burges devoted much of their lives to advancing the Newcastle area. Bill Burges, as Newcastle town clerk, played a major role in establishing the University, while Iris’ support included baking cakes to raise funds towards the 1966 community campaign to build the Great Hall. Neither Bill nor Iris had the opportunity to attend university, however, they greatly valued education. Both of their sons went on to study at the University of Newcastle and its predecessor at Tighes Hill.

If you would like to honour a special person by supporting research in an area which is important to you, contact Brad Holmes on 02 4921 8612 or

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