Patricia Feilman AM will be well-known to a great many of our members and friends from her 36 years as Executive Secretary of The Ian Potter Foundation, a position she held from The Foundation’s establishment in 1964 until her retirement in December 2000. She was closely involved in the initial negotiations to set up The Ian Potter Foundation and was the Foundation’s sole staff member until 1991, while also remaining involved in Sir Ian Potter’s business affair and running her own plant nursery. Sir Ian had great faith in her judgement, and according to his biographer Peter Yule, Pat’s abilities in networking and negotiation “rivalled those of Ian Potter himself.”
Pat’s contribution over many years, particularly in the field of conservation and the environment, made her a recognised leader in the Australian philanthropic sector. She was instrumental in contributing to the development of the Potter Farmland Plan and other environmental projects backed by The Ian Potter Foundation. In 1990 she was awarded an Order of Australia for her contribution to philanthropy.
Pat was a Governor of the Feilman Foundation and Trustee of The Norman Wettenhall Foundation, and her other contributions to public and community life were extensive. Her previous appointments include Chairman of the Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation, Chairman of the Council of the State Film Centre of Victoria, Chairman of the Zoological Board of Victoria, Executive Director of the Australian Landscape Trust, member of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, Trustee of the Trust for Nature, and member of the Council of the Nurserymen’s Association of Victoria. She was a keen gardener and collector of art.
Along with Meriel Wilmot, then Executive Secretary of The Myer Foundation, Pat Feilman was one of the “godmothers” of Philanthropy Australia, instrumental in the organisation’s establishment and in fostering bonds between philanthropic trusts. She continued to be a great friend to Philanthropy Australia, serving as Council Member and Secretary for several periods of time, and helping to host Philanthropy Australia in rent-free office accommodation with The Ian Potter Foundation. Her contribution was recognised with the awarding of Life Membership of Philanthropy Australia on her retirement in 2000.
Pat Feilman was in her 83rd year and is survived by her elder sister Margaret. For her strength of character, her sharp mind, her passion for conservation and her and her concern for the disadvantaged, she will be remembered, missed, and celebrated.
Reproduced with permission from Philanthropy Australia