Thursday, February 11, 2016 - 10:30
Greg Poche AO and Kay E. Van Norton Poche at their conferral ceremony in Sydney, with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) Professor Cindy Shannon (left), Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Advancement) Ms Claire Pullar, and Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.  Photo: Maja Baska
Greg Poche AO and Kay E. Van Norton Poche at their conferral ceremony in Sydney, with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) Professor Cindy Shannon (left), Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Advancement) Ms Claire Pullar, and Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj. Photo: Maja Baska

The University of Queensland has awarded honorary doctorates to philanthropists Greg Poche AO and Kay E. Van Norton Poche, in recognition of their life-changing dedication to Indigenous health.

The Doctor of the University honoris causa awards were conferred at a ceremony in Sydney.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the couple had donated more than $100 million in the past decade to tackle national challenges in Australian medicine, health and wellbeing.

“They are exceptional philanthropists who have made an extraordinary commitment to creating change through efforts to close the gap in life expectancy and to help progressing towards health equality for Indigenous Australians,” he said.

“Mr Poche, who founded logistics company Star Track Express, earned a reputation for championing fair play and was instrumental in exposing anti-competitive practices in the express freight industry.

“After selling the company, the Poches activated one of Australia’s most substantial philanthropic portfolios, in consultation with close friend Reg Richardson AM.”

In 2005, they gave more than $40 million to the Mater Hospital Sydney to build the Melanoma Institute Australia, the world’s largest melanoma research and treatment centre.

Nine years and many millions of philanthropic dollars later, they donated $10 million in 2014 to establish the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, the sixth such centre across five universities in Australia.

They have given a total of $50 million to establish the centres, and $1.25 million for the Poche Indigenous Health Network as a point of co-ordination and activity at the national level.

“Their vision of a national network of university centres targeting improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is likely to be the most significant multi-university philanthropic action by any Australian couple,” Professor Høj said.

“It will become a national force for translating high-quality research into improved services and policies, while building a workforce attuned to the needs of Indigenous Australians.”

Professor Høj said Mr Poche initially resisted publicity for the couple’s generosity, believing those who worked in the funded centres deserved all the credit.

“Eventually he was persuaded to go public to promote the invaluable benefits of giving, to spur other successful Australians to consider philanthropy,” he said.

Mrs Van Norton Poche said philanthropy was extremely satisfying.

“Greg and I have been in the fortunate position to be able to give financial support to a number of worthwhile and important health-related projects around Australia,” she said.

“It gives us both a feeling of enormous satisfaction to see the positive results which are now flowing from these ventures.”

Media: communications@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 1120 or +61 (0)413 601 248.