26 Jul 2017

Introducing The Macfarlane Fund and The Macfarlane Commissions at ACCA

A new philanthropic fund established to honor the life of respected Melbourne businessman Donald (Don) Macfarlane who, throughout his life, took immense pleasure in the arts.

Don Macfarlane (25.7.1939 – 11.6.2016) was the Managing Director of the Amcor Group and an active member of the Melbourne business and wider community. Chair of Leadership Victoria and a committed supporter of St Kilda’s Sacred Heart Mission, Don was known for his exceptional intellect, a non-conformist approach to business leadership, and visionary community involvement.

Throughout his life and especially in retirement, he nurtured a deep interest and engagement with the arts, and was an accomplished painter, artistic mentor and musician. He also developed a long-term plan to establish a philanthropic fund to offer financial support to artists at all levels, and to address perceived deficiencies in the local and national funding and philanthropic sector.

The Macfarlane Fund, established on his passing by Don Macfarlane’s wife Helen and daughter, Victorian publican and businesswoman Melissa Macfarlane, honours these long-term plans.

The Macfarlane Fund’s primary focus is to offer financial support across the career span of artists, with three main funding streams developed at graduate, mid-career and senior levels. In addition a discretionary fund is available for one-off donations for special projects considered to be worthy or important.

Managed by a Board, with decisions made through a separate Advisory Committee made up of members of the national visual arts community, the Fund will also strive to foster relationships between recipients, and in time form an actively connected and nurturing alumni of artists.

Underpinning its development is a rigorous approach to decision-making, and a commitment to being flexible, effective and responsive to artistic practice and initiatives in a way that challenges established modes of giving.





The first initiative to be launched by the Macfarlane Fund is the Don Macfarlane Prize, a most generous $50,000 award to be given annually to a senior Australian artist, in recognition of their unwavering, agenda-setting arts practice, ongoing cultural contribution and leadership, and commitment to mentorship.

“Throughout his later years, my father recognized there were significant gaps in the philanthropic and funding sector, especially for artists who may have had a long and enduring career but had missed out on grants and prizes along the way, primarily because many were designed around supporting emerging and young artists,” said Melissa Macfarlane.  

“This is the prize that most represents his ethos – it’s for artists who have taken risks, made breakthroughs and inspired other artists, and also maintained a commitment to mentoring others. He would be especially thrilled to know we have established the MacFarlane Fund in his name, to support and help artists of this caliber, and at a senior level.”

The inaugural recipient of the Don Macfarlane prize is Pat Brassington.



The Macfarlane Commissions are a Biennial Commission Award to be developed in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, specifically designed for mid-career artists.

Every second year for a period of six years, five Australian artists will be invited by the ACCA curatorial team to make a large-scale new work that will be shown in this prestigious and nationally recognized gallery.

The inaugural Macfarlane Commission recipients will be announced in November, 2017, with the first exhibition scheduled to open in December 2018.

“Like ACCA, the Macfarlane Fund is committed to creating programs that are innovative and ambitious, and, importantly, deliver an extraordinary impact on the career and life of an artist. We are thrilled to collaborate with Macfarlane Fund on this exciting new program,” said Max Delany, ACCA Artistic Director/CEO. “We hope these commissions create career-defining moments for the artists involved, and great new experiences for our audiences.”



An annual three-month residency in the central-Victorian town of Kyneton will be offered to graduates of the RMIT Fine Art Bachelor and Honours courses. Recipients will be selected from graduate exhibitions and offered a studio, accommodation, and the opportunity to be involved in an annual group exhibition at Kyneton’s renowned Stockroom gallery.

An annual Los Angeles residency will be available for graduates from RMIT Fine Art Honours and Masters degree courses. Also selected from the graduate shows, successful recipients will be offered a three-month residency in Los Angeles, with accommodation and studio space. The Macfarlane Fund is currently developing links with art schools in the LA area, to ensure recipients establish international connections and collegiate networks.

The Macfarlane Fund founders
Melissa Macfarlane
Helen Macfarlane
Frank Moylan
Georgina Macfarlane

The Advisory Committee
Jessica Bridgfoot, Curator, Bendigo Art Gallery
Eddie Butler Bowdon, Program Manager, Art and Heritage Collection, City of Melbourne
Rebecca Coates, Director, Shepparton Art Gallery
Max Delany, Artistic Director/CEO, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
Nicole Durling, Senior Curator, MONA
Chris McAuliffe, art historian, writer and curator