Gregory John Poche and Kay Ellen Van Norton Poche

Citation for the award of a Fellow of the University of Melbourne

What can we do to improve the lives of others? After selling their highly successful Star Track Express in 2003, Greg and Kay Poche, profoundly aware of the privileged position they were in, asked themselves this question and answered it with philanthropy.

The philanthropic gifts of Greg and Kay Poche are made with their eyes fixed firmly on the end game. Understanding perfectly the role of money in accelerating the application of existing expertise into practical results, they like to invest in supporting and growing established knowledge and skills. Of their many generous gifts made in this spirit, perhaps those establishing the network of Poche Centres for Indigenous Health are the most ambitious – a strategy aimed at enabling Indigenous Australia to reset its own course for the health of its communities.

Greg and Kay Poche have established the Poche Centres for Indigenous Health, located within Universities across the Australian mainland, to effect systemic change in Aboriginal health by using specialist knowledge and skills to introduce upstream interventions in clearly identified health determinants.

The brilliant vision of Greg and Kay’s philanthropic investments in Indigenous health, ably abetted by their friend and advisor, Reg Richardson, has been realised in the creation of five Centres at Universities across the country focusing on different priorities: oral, child and cardiac health (Sydney); mental health, child development and disability and chronic disease (Western Australia); building an Indigenous health workforce (Flinders); growing clinical and academic Indigenous leadership (Melbourne); and the health of urban Indigenous communities (Queensland).

Greg Poche’s strategic insight and reputation for ethical conduct were well demonstrated in his business life as he created and grew the Star Track Express transport company, when he broke the Australian express freight cartel in the 1990s, and when he eventually sold the business: placing the interests of his employees, customers, business and future shareholders above his own. These qualities drew considerable, albeit unsought, public interest and admiration. Although often asked to join Star Track Express, Kay’s contributions to the business were made as Greg’s partner, providing the distinctive lateral support only such a role can deliver. More recently she has taken on the role of spokesperson for Greg, now that his illness prevents him from speaking, and has led the development of the overarching national network linking the Poche Centres for Indigenous Health.

Greg and Kay Poche asked themselves a difficult question: what will it take to improve the health of Indigenous Australia? Their answer is manifest in the Poche Centres for Indigenous Health. Although their instinctive modesty makes them shy of publicity, they have agreed to public acknowledgement of their gifts in the knowledge that philanthropy grows best in the light. Their philanthropic leadership stands as a model for all who are in a position to help others.

Gregory Poche and Kay Van Norton Poche are to be awarded a Fellow of the University of Melbourne in recognition of their extraordinary generosity, philanthropic leadership and resolute vision for improving the future of Indigenous communities throughout Australia.