On Saturday April 18, Ken Smith, former President of TRY Australia, passed away at the age of 98.
Ken began his association with TRY as a TRY boy in 1929 renewing it much later when he became a board member in 1964. Ken was a board member for 33 years and President for 28 years 1969-1998, holding that position longer than any other President or Chairman. He is remembered by people who worked with him as affable, easy to work with and a leader who brought a sense of confidence to the organisation at a time of great change.
As President, Ken led TRY through what was a difficult period for many organisations working in Victoria in the youth and community services sector. The system of State Government Grants was being wound back and for many charities, what had been their lifeblood was disappearing.
It was WM Forster’s belief that the best way to deliver a social benefit is by investing in individuals and communities, unlocking their potential by uniting the spirit of charity with the principle of self help. Under Ken’s leadership TRY applied that principle to the organisation itself: wherever possible innovating to self-fund community programs through different enterprises.
Through the 1970’s TRY replaced it’s income sources with a wide range of fundraising activities. By the 1980’s TRY had become self-sufficient to the extent it was able to contribute $500,000 (around $2m in today’s values) to other organisations in desperate need of financial support.
At this time TRY also greatly expanded its own support services and activities.
A number of new youth and community centres were opened across Melbourne. New residential hostels were opened and units were built in Thornbury for Aboriginal Students. TRY provided funds to the University of Ballarat, also to accommodate Aboriginal students. TRY moved into childcare and the early learning sector.
In 1989 Ken received an Order of Australia Medal for his outstanding service to youth support in Victoria.
In 2014 at the age of 97 he was awarded TRY’s Lifetime Achievement Award to recognise his long contribution to the organisation he loved-a contribution that continued to the end of his life.
On the sad occasion of his passing, TRY Australia salutes a life of service.