‘Their legacy is living on’: Brunswick couple leaves estimated $2.8m to charity

An inner-Melbourne charity will be gifted an estimated $2.8 million in a real-life tale of practising what you preach.

Academic Christopher Baker lectured in philanthropy and even wrote his PhD on structured giving in wills.

Inner North Community Foundation chair Carolyn Phiddian inside 11 Rose Street, Brunswick. Money from the sale of the property will fund community grants.Credit:Chris Hopkins

He and partner Kerri Hall arranged for part of their estate – including their superannuation and proceeds of the sale of their 1920s Californian bungalow – to support the Inner North Community Foundation.

Dr Baker, who died last year, was a lecturer at Swinburne University. Ms Hall, who died in 2017, was a librarian at the State Library of Victoria.

The couple’s gift will fund community grants worth an estimated $100,000 each year.

Ms Hall’s niece, Amanda Marshman, who lived with them from 2009 to 2012, said Dr Baker and Ms Hall, who had no children, put other people’s needs before theirs.

Kerri Hall and Christopher Baker in Rome in 2012.

They took a keen interest in their siblings, nieces and nephews and “encouraged us to chase our dreams,” she said.

Ms Marshman said the couple loved hiking, travelled extensively in Europe and “fell in love” with the Italian island of Sardinia. They trekked in Nepal, and after Ms Hall died, Dr Baker went there to teach English to college students.

“They felt that everyone deserves the opportunity of education or a better lifestyle,” Ms Marshman said.

“To know that the money from the house is going towards helping better other people’s lives, I think it’s absolutely fantastic.

The house at 11 Rose Street, Brunswick.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“It’s like their legacy is living on and that means the world to us, as a family.”

Carolyn Phiddian, chair of the Inner North Community Foundation, of which Dr Baker was chair from 2016 to 2020, said the bequest was tremendously generous.

Earnings from investing the donation will go to charities that support social justice in Melbourne’s inner-northern suburbs.

That could mean everything from funding legal services for the disadvantaged and English lessons for migrants to meeting spaces for community groups.

The bequest is the biggest single donation from individuals to the foundation.

Since starting in 2007, the foundation has been mostly funded by not-for-profit employment agency IntoWork Australia, but also gets donations from hundreds of companies and individuals.

The foundation has given $4.3 million to more than 180 charities, including a program paying mentors to help women just released from prison and food vouchers for families affected by COVID-19.

Ms Phiddian said for a body like a neighbourhood house, even a small grant could make a huge difference to programs they offered.

Real estate agent Jellis Craig is donating its services for the April 17 auction of the home, which is worth an estimated $1.1 million.

The three-bedroom property features timber floors and has fruit trees in the yard. It was last sold in 1985 for $63,500.

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