Robert Salzer 1986
Robert or Bob Salzer began the Foundation in 1987 with a gift of $500,000. Over the remainder of his life Bob steered the board in a direction which gave priority to the Victoria State Opera of which he and Betty Salzer were keen supporters. Bob and Betty, in conjunction with the Foundation, sponsored several opera productions.
After Bob's death in 1995 Betty joined the board of the Foundation and Betty added another $500,000 to the trust fund.
With the demise of the Victoria State Opera the Foundation adjusted its approach to the support of opera by placing emphasis on support of students and rising performers in singing and dance. On Betty's death in 2002 the whole of the Salzers' assets were added to the Foundation, so enabling it to increase the scope and scale of its activities.
Bob Salzer was born in Vienna in 1924, the son of a banker of that city and was brought up in a traditionally Viennese way to treasure the arts, particularly music, especially opera, and above all the opera of Richard Wagner.
The advance of Nazism forced the departure of the Salzer family from Vienna. They took refuge in the United Kingdom, where, in the early 1950s Bob met Betty Reid, a young Canadian teacher who happened to share a holiday coach tour with him. They migrated to Kenya where they married in 1954. They moved on to Australia in 1961 and settled in Melbourne.
In Melbourne Bob was soon successful in the building industry, constructing many substantial buildings, including city office towers, over a period of 30 years or more.
The Robert Salzer Foundation carries on the commitment to the arts which was such a feature of the Salzers' life work.
Professor John Sharkey AM
Robert Symons has been a lawyer by profession in what is now one of Australia’s largest international law firms and has long been an enthusiast for the arts, particularly musical performance. He, with John Sharkey, was privileged to know both Bob and Betty Salzer and to share with them their enthusiasm for the arts in the early days of the foundation.
Robert Johanson is a banker. He was chairman of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and in charge of the Melbourne office of Grant Samuel for over 20 years. He was deputy chancellor of the University of Melbourne and chairman of the Australia India Institute. He is a director of Melbourne Business School, chairman of the Finance Committee of ANZOG, and chair of the Australian Friends of Asha.
Karen Wood is a non-executive director and chair South32 Limited. She previously chaired the BHP Foundation and held a number of global roles at BHP before retiring in 2014. Karen is also a non executive director of Djerriwarrh Investments Limited and formally on the Board of State Library Victoria. Karen joined the board of the Robert Salzer Foundation in 2016.
John Sharkey is a Professorial Fellow in the Law School at the University of Melbourne. He is an independent arbitrator and mediator and was a legal adviser to the construction company conducted by Bob and Betty Salzer.
Kate Torney has extensive experience in the Australian media, cultural and philanthropic sectors, having spent 20 years at the ABC, including six as News Director, six years as Chief Executive of the State Library of Victoria and now as CEO of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation.
Opened in 1856, the State Library is now one of the most visited libraries in the world and Kate led an $88 million redevelopment to reimagine services and stunning heritage spaces for the 21st century.
During Kate’s time at the ABC, she led a team of 1,400 reporters and production colleagues across Australia and globally. She also oversaw the major review that led to the ABC’s successful re-orientation towards digital platforms, including the launch of the ABC News channel and the expansion of ABC News online.
In October 2021, Kate joined the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation which supports the work of some of the world’s leading cancer researchers.
Continuing a legacy for a love and support for opera and the arts.
An excerpt from Robert Salzer's support profile in the VSO news publication from 1986.