For the past twenty years, the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) Newcastle and Hunter has been an avid supporter of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).
Now, as the institute celebrates its 20th anniversary, AHA’s Nikki Taylor sat down with Bushranger's Bar & Brasserie owners Bruce and Vicki Woods, two of the association’s most active supporters of HMRI, to ask how it all began.
According to Bruce, a former AHA Newcastle and Hunter Sub-Branch president, the relationship between AHA Newcastle and Hunter and HMRI began in 1998 when the association began looking for a community partnership.
“For us it was about forming a partnership with HMRI so that money donated would be both budget-able and spendable within the community,” Bruce explained.
“It was a big change from how we had been going about things until then. Prior to the partnership, the local AHA committee would sit down and decide on a handful of different charities each year that we would give to, but this was about creating an ongoing commitment to something we believed could make a difference, both within the community and in people’s lives.
“Since then it’s been a long-term commitment and we are proud that AHA Newcastle and Hunter is a Top 200 member, meaning the association is a consistent and guaranteed donator to the institute.”
In addition to actively fundraising for HMRI from the couple's hotel at Largs, Vicki also sits on the HMRI Foundation, a board of local professionals who willingly donate their time and skills to help raise funds and awareness for the institute.
Along with Foundation members from TAFE, NIB and other companies and organisations, Vicki assists HMRI to raise funds through a variety of channels.
“We all use our individual skill sets and contacts to help HMRI, and for me as a member of AHA, that means things like sponsoring tables at the HMRI Annual Ball, sponsoring tables for the Annual Race Day, organising pay roll deductions at different AHA member venues and so on," she said.
Both Bruce and Vicki agree that over the past 20 years, HMRI has proven to be an ideal community partner for AHA Newcastle and Hunter for a number of reasons.
“One of the reasons AHA Newcastle and Hunter originally chose HMRI as a community partner was because it is local. It was important to us an association, that the money we donated stayed in the local community,” Bruce said.
“As with some of our other funding recipients like Hunter Academy of Sport, it’s important to support your local community.”
In addition to fitting the bill in terms of geography, Vicki said HMRI also showed incredible promise in the field of medical research, even at its inception.
“As we know, HMRI has gone on to become a world-class centre for research, but even 20 years ago HMRI as an organisation was ground-breaking,” she said.
“It started with a dozen people who were interested in creating a facility for the region and that’s now grown to 1,800 researchers based here in the Hunter, across three campuses, and it is the second biggest medical institute in NSW only to the Garvan.”
Bushranger's Bar & Brasserie Let's Do Lunch event with HMRI's Associate Professor Nikola Bowden and NBN's Natasha Beyersforf
In the past 20 years, the AHA has donated more than $120,000 to HMRI, money that has been used to purchase equipment, fund scholarships and help researchers understand more about cancer, heart disease, mental health, reproductive health, infection and a number of other illnesses.
"We are incredibly proud of our partnership with HMRI and we look forward to supporting the institute well into the future,"Bruce said.