Wednesday, 19 July 2023

James Ramsay Centenary Dinner

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Government House this evening, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of James Ramsay AO, and the outstanding work of the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation.

Fitting that we should be celebrating inside Government House, while outside, on the façade, Into the Light is playing as part of the Illuminate Festival paying tribute to the contribution of wonderful South Australian women, including in the arts.

Philanthropy has a long and distinguished history in South Australia.

Generous contributions in the settlement’s early decades from families such as the Angases, Bonythons and Waites were crucial in the building of churches, public buildings and educational institutions.

Fast forward to today and that magnanimity is still evident in support for the arts, the environment, our history, our learning, our disadvantaged.

There is something about South Australians that gives us an impetus to identify what needs to be done, and to make things happen - a generosity of spirit alongside a generosity of giving.

This is exemplified in the work and contributions of James and Diana Ramsay.

Throughout their lives, as a couple, they supported many causes.

The foundation was kind enough to send me a copy of James’ meticulously handwritten list – written in the early nineties - of the organisations of which he was a member, fellow, and/or major donor.

It’s four pages long!

In 2008, Diana established the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation to continue the philanthropic work she and her husband had undertaken throughout their lives together.

Today, the foundation has donated more than $20 million in grants to more than 80 organisations across the fields of arts, health innovation, and programs for young people.

South Australian organisations feature most strongly, amongst them the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The Ramsays are the most generous donors in the history of the institution, with both a gallery and a major art prize named after them.

The foundation is a generous supporter of SAHMRI, South Australia’s flagship health and medical research institute, delivering $1.5 million in grants since 2015 and supporting a range of research projects.

The foundation has also been a generous supporter of programs like Youth Opportunities and Operation Flinders, assisting thousands of disadvantaged young people.

Renowned national and Tasmanian institutions have also received support from the foundation.

This year, to honour James’ love of ballet and the centenary of his birth, the foundation gave $1 million to the Australian Ballet.


You may have heard the saying, “only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have”.

Those who knew James Ramsay, one of Australia’s most significant cultural benefactors, know that the generosity he showed throughout his life brought him a great sense of joy, hope and optimism.

This joy lives on in the organisations, and countless individuals, whose lives continue to be touched by the generosity of Ramsay giving.

I thank the Board, chaired by Nicholas Ross, and staff of the Ramsay Foundation, led by Kerry de Lorme, for honouring James’ and Diana’s legacy in our state and beyond, not just today but every day.

Finally, on the centenary of his birth on 19 July 1923, I invite you to stand and join me in a grateful toast to James Ramsay AO and the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation.

Coming events