In February 1979 it was agreed that the principal memorial to Sir Robert Menzies was to be a non-political foundation called 'The Sir Robert Menzies National Foundation for health, fitness and physical achievement'. It would be located in Melbourne with Professor Sir Edward Hughes, then president of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, as its founding chairman. The Federal Government of the time launched a public appeal and the appeal brochure emphasised that the Menzies Foundation:
“ ... would be broad in vision and high in aspiration, and be directed to improving the quality of life. It would have wide appeal among Australian men and women and a special application to young people. It would for these reasons be appropriate to the memory of the man to be honoured.”
Having concluded that some aspect of health and fitness would be the main focus of memorial activities, the trust (created by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser) also decided that it would not limit itself to this area alone but would also engage in a number of subsidiary activities. These included the possibility of developing scholarships in law and medicine.
The public appeal raised $6.2 million. The funds were invested so that the income could be used to support the various memorial activities in perpetuity. In its first 25 years, the Menzies Foundation expended approximately $20 million of its investment income on a program of initiatives that included:
- the establishment of the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin;
- the establishment of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Hobart;
- the funding of post-graduate scholarships in the fields of medicine, allied health sciences and law;
- the sponsorship of grants, seminars and lectures on public health related themes;
- support for the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London;
- support for the Menzies Memorial Scholars' Association;
- the restoration and maintenance of 'Clarendon Terrace', East Melbourne; and
- the creation of the Menzies Virtual Museum website, menziesvirtualmuseum.org.au.
(With some slight modifications, this text has been taken from The Menzies Foundation: an unconventional memoir, written by Menzies Foundation Director and former General Manager, Sandra Mackenzie.)