Our Story

The Reichstein Foundation operates at the forefront of social change philanthropy in Australia. Over the past 50 years we’ve granted more than $21.5 million to organisations creating a more equal, just and sustainable society.

Our Origin

The Reichstein Foundation was founded in 1970 by Lance Reichstein, an engineer and entrepreneur celebrated for his innovative spirit, work ethic, and commitment to giving back.

In 1928, Lance established Industrial Engineering Limited and grew the company from humble beginnings into one of Australia’s leading engineering and manufacturing firms. He also served as a Councilor for the City of Melbourne for nearly two decades.

Since Lance’s passing in 1979, his daughter, Jill Reichstein, has directed the Foundation and propelled it to the forefront of social change philanthropy within Australia.

A New Agenda: Change Not Charity

Early in her tenure as Chair, Jill Reichstein, described by the Australian Financial Review as the nation’s ‘Change Agent Provocateur,’ initiated a transformative shift in the Foundation’s approach.

She started by reconfiguring the board and appointing community leaders who had a deeper understanding of the issues the Foundation sought to address, as well as the needs of advocates working to address them.

As a result, instead of simply supporting charitable endeavors that addressed the symptoms of inequality and injustice, the Reichstein Foundation began to back organisations that courageously confronted the underlying drivers of these issues. 
The Foundation’s hallmark ‘change not charity’ approach was born, and by 2001 we were dubbed ‘one of Melbourne’s strongest supporters of social justice’.

Seed-funding a Social Justice Movement 

Over the decades we’ve provided early-stage support to hundreds of new and emerging organisations, programs and campaigns, and often those that other funders would not readily support. We’re heartened that so many of them have gone on to become some of Australia’s most impactful catalysts for change.

Explore a few examples of how our seed-funding has helped build organisations and movements from the ground up.

Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network

In 2016, we provided the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network (Seed) with one of its first grants, enabling the network to invest in growing their base of support. Seed plays a critical role in Australia’s climate justice movement as the country’s first Indigenous-led organisation working to engage young Indigenous people in developing and leading solutions to the climate crisis.


The Alliance for Gambling Reform

Australians hold the record for the highest gambling spending per person globally, with a disproportionate impact on low-income earners. In 2015, we backed the establishment of the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR), which united long-term gambling reform advocates to bolster and grow their efforts. AGR champions regulations and policies to prevent and reduce gambling harm. Now with over 60 members, including local governments, churches, and organisations formed by people affected by gambling, AGR’s impact continues to grow. 

Watch their story: Changing the Rules: Reducing Inequality


Australian Council of Social Services

In 2018, the Reichstein Foundation provided early support to get ACOSS’ Raise the Rate campaign off the ground. The campaign tackles poverty and inequality by raising the rate of Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments. Throughout the campaign ACOSS ensured that people on low incomes were directly involved in policy, strategy and advocacy. Over five years the campaign has secured around $9.5 billion in additional social support for people on the lowest incomes. 


Environmental Justice Australia

In the early 1990’s the Reichstein Foundation took a chance on the newly launched Victorian Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), now known as Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), and provided the organisation with the funding needed to launch its strategic litigation and legal advocacy work. Now, 30 years on, EJA is one of Australia’s strongest climate justice advocates, using the law to protect nature and safeguard the environment. Our commitment to EJA has remained strong, and in 2014, when the EDO refined its approach and relaunched as EJA, we stuck by their side and provided support to help them through the transition.


Koori Health Worker Training Program

In 1982, we provided vital funding to get The Koori Health Worker Training Program off the ground. The program, one of the first of its kind in Australia, enabled First Nations community members to receive basic healthcare training through a partnership with the University of Melbourne. Upon returning to their communities’ program participants acted as liaisons between community members and healthcare providers, creating better access to – and trust in – formal medical services. We’re proud to have supported the program’s inception, enabling First Nations community members to bridge the gap in healthcare access.

Big Wins for Society

We believe creating social change means tackling the root causes of the problems we face as a society. This is why we’ve supported thousands of courageous advocates pushing to do just that. And we couldn’t be prouder that so many of them have taken on the laws, policies and practices that drive injustice – and won!

Discover a selection of the victories our support has helped catalyse:

Securing the right to marry for same-sex couples

For decades the Reichstein Foundation has been backing organisations fighting on the frontlines for LGBTIQ+ rights and equality. And in 2017 the tireless endeavors of LGBTQ+ rights advocates across Australia, including a number of our grant partners, yielded a historic outcome – enshrining the right for same-sex couples to marry into law. The Reichstein Foundation put considerable resources into the YES campaign, and also helped to coordinate a collective response from foundations and private donors in support of marriage equality. 

Tom Snow from YES central, wrote that, ‘Quite simply, this result would not have happened without philanthropy. It has been critical.’


Defending the ability for charities to engage in advocacy

In 2021, we backed the Hands Off Our Charities Alliance, which has since become the Stronger Charities Alliance. The coalition, comprising over 120 charities under the coordination of the Australian Democracy Network, strives to safeguard the ability for not-for-profits to engage in advocacy. After years of dedicated campaigning, the alliance achieved a significant victory by successfully bringing down legislation that could have given the government authority to shut down charities engaged in advocacy. This achievement proved crucial in preserving civil society, free speech, and the integrity of our democracy.


Reforming racist and discriminatory practices in Victoria’s Police

In 2013, the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre settled a landmark racial profiling suit against Victoria Police, forcing them to review their training and field practices to put an end to racial profiling and discrimination. The Reichstein Foundation provided the legal team with the resources they needed to carry out in-depth research and data analysis, which formed the basis of evidence for their litigation. 

“We turned to Reichstein in our hour of need. It was one minute to midnight. Without that funding, we would have had to withdraw from the case. When it truly mattered, they were there.” – Peter Seidel, Arnold Bloch Leibler’s and lead litigator on the case. 

Watch their story: Changing The Rules Doing Social Justice Philanthropy 


Protecting the Great Barrier Reef

In 2018, our support played a pivotal role in the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s (AMCS) efforts to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef against further degradation and hold the Australian and Queensland Governments accountable for its rejuvenation. AMCS focused on advocating for a revision to the UNESCO World Heritage climate change policy, overseen by the UN’s World Heritage Committee.  This action prompted a notice to the governments that without intervention the reef could be added to the Committee’s endangered list, resulting in reputational damage and tourism decline. The governments were compelled to oversee a comprehensive management plan aimed at restoring the Reef’s vitality. 


Establishing the co-managed Barmah-Millewa National Park

In 2008, we provided support to the Yorta Yorta Nation and Friends of the Earth to establish the co-managed Barmah-Millewa National Park. This move, recognized as one of Australia’s Top 50 Philanthropic Gifts, ensured that the Yorta Yorta Nation had the management rights they needed to protect and govern their ancestral land. With other partners, a total of $180,000 was invested into creating 200,000 hectares of new red gum conservation areas and national parks, including a ban on logging and cattle grazing in these areas. 

Read more about the other big wins we’ve helped make possible in our annual reports below. 

Building and Shaping the Philanthropy Sector

We know that the problems we seek to solve are too big to tackle alone, which is why we’ve also focused our work on shaping, growing, and sustaining Australia’s philanthropic community.

In the early 1980s, Jill Reichstein recognized that Australia’s philanthropic community lacked the expertise to provide effective support to organisations advocating for systemic change. To address this, she launched the country’s first series of workshops designed for philanthropists.

Our commitment to shaping philanthropy has remained a key focus and in 2012 the Foundation collaborated with Changemakers to develop and implement training programs in social change philanthropy.

Beyond this, the Foundation has played a vital role in bolstering Australia’s philanthropic infrastructure. This includes providing the early-stage funding and strategic assistance needed to establish what is now Philanthropy Australia, the leading body representing the philanthropic sector in Australia.

We are also proud to be a founding partner of Australians Investing in Women, the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, Pride and Mannifera, and early supporters of GiveOUT, and Woor-Dungin.


Grant Partners List

Check out our grant partner listings to see who we’ve supported over the years.

Our People

Our dedicated staff and trustees are driven by our collective vision to create an equal and just society on healthy country.

Our Approach

Our progressive values and ‘change not charity’ approach guide everything we do.