Lucy Turnbull AO and Malcolm Turnbull AC

A passion for history inspired Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull to join our Custodian program, where their gift will assist us to conserve our 12 unique sites for future generations.

Lucy Turnbull AO and Malcolm Turnbull AC are renowned for their distinguished service to the community, including their philanthropic support of medical, social welfare, educational, youth and cultural organisations. Through the Turnbull Foundation, the couple support SLM properties that encapsulate our rich history – including some sentimental favourites. 

What motivated the Turnbull Foundation to support SLM? 

We’ve always had a strong interest in history and heritage; in fact, our daughter, Daisy, is a history teacher! History enriches our understanding of the present and reveals a story about the people who came before us and how things came to be. Take Susannah Place, for instance. When you look at those small houses built by Irish immigrants in the 1840s, it’s like being transported into the everyday lives of our early settlers. The Hyde Park Barracks gives you insights into our history as a convict settlement. So, when we visit these important cultural sites, we begin to gain a deep appreciation for our journey as a nation. 

We support causes aligned with our passion for innovation and culture, whether that’s hospitals or research institutions. It was a natural fit for us to support SLM, which is one of the key custodians of Sydney’s built and documentary heritage and cares for some of Australia’s great cultural institutions. By supporting SLM in the preservation of these sites, we hope SLM continues to educate and inspire future generations. 

Which of our 12 properties do you love and value the most, and why? 

Each SLM property tells a unique story, which makes it difficult to choose favourites! Lucy adores Elizabeth Bay House, built by John Verge for Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay. It’s so finely proportioned and beautifully positioned overlooking Elizabeth Bay, where Lucy spent her early childhood. We’ve always loved Vaucluse House and its beautiful gardens. It holds sentimental value for our family, as we spent time there together when our kids were growing up and going to school nearby. Of course, it was also the family home of William Charles Wentworth, a barrister and politician who campaigned for civil rights. With a convict heritage, however, Wentworth and his family were often excluded from aspects of society. It’s wonderful, then, that Vaucluse House is (usually!) open for all to enjoy. Except during a COVID lockdown. 

What’s important about the work SLM undertakes? 

The significance of the assets that SLM looks after is hard to overestimate. It’s vital work that ensures our history is preserved. When we understand where we come from, we can learn a great deal about how to navigate the challenges we face today and in the future. 

SLM’s work helps to turn these historic sites into open public spaces. The Mint, for example, has a rich and varied history with its origins as the ‘Rum’ hospital for convicts before becoming the first overseas branch of London’s Royal Mint. It was actually our first public–private partnership, designed and built for the government by a group of individuals who apparently were also involved in the rum trade. Today, thanks to SLM’s conservation efforts, the grounds are open free of charge for people to explore and enjoy.

Complete this sentence: History matters because … 

History matters because it’s the only way to understand who we are as a society. From the banalities of daily life to epic battles and the greatest orators, history explains who we are. 

Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull standing in a garden

Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull. Photo © Sahlan Hayes