Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Betty will tell you she was one of the warmest and most spirited people you could ever hope to meet. She always had a twinkle in her eye and a big grin that spoke volumes about her life of adventure.

Her humanity was legendary, both in terms of her generosity as a philanthropist and the warmth she bestowed upon those around her: associates, friends, kids, puppies, staff at the Arts Centre cafe – it didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, Betty was everyone’s friend. Mind you, she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Betty’s generosity spanned the arts spectrum and beyond. Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, the Arts Centre Foundation, the Australian Ballet School, Orchestra Victoria, Polyglot Theatre and Guide Dogs Victoria all enjoyed her support.

Her community mindedness and work ethic were legendary: “The harder you work, the luckier you get!” she counselled. “My money wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter. I’ve worked really hard. I’m not a Pratt or a Potter, I’m just Betty Amsden doing my bit in the little way I can.”

One of Betty’s closest mentoring relationships, which, over the years, came to be more of a familial relationship, was with Melbourne-based arts philanthropist, James Ostroburski.

“Over the past five years, Betty had become the voice in the back of my head. Generosity and love formed part of her DNA,” James says fondly. “She was a mentor, a fairy grandmother (to many) and an outstanding Australian. I will miss her like crazy.”

Melbourne Women’s Fund founders Pat Burke and Gillian Hund honoured Betty’s passionate and fearless spirit. “A wise woman, a great friend, a very generous philanthropist, Betty will be remembered for her quickness of mind, absolute commitment to the organisations receiving her support and her great belief that through example we can, and should, become vital members of our own giving community.”

Guide Dogs Victoria’s CEO Karen Hayes says, “For over 35 years, Betty has been an extraordinary force championing the rights of people with low vision or blindness to live rich and fulfilling lives. While many supporters focused on the Guide Dog, Betty’s heart was always about what the Guide Dog could do for the person, and she advocated tirelessly for the stories of our clients’ achievements to be told.
“Over the course of the last seven years, Betty has been an extremely active and influential member of the Board and as Vice Patron, providing a level of leadership and stewardship of immense value and insight. It is no overstatement, when I say that Guide Dogs Victoria would not be where it is today without Betty’s amazing insight and passion. She has provided the greatest and most enduring service to Guide Dogs Victoria and her legacy will remain forever.”
Betty didn’t just write cheques, she rolled up the sleeves and got involved with the organisations she supported attending performances, working on sausage sizzles, sitting on boards, and staying in close contact with the scholarship recipients she funded.

But the last word surely goes to Betty herself, who, as one of philanthropy’s most passionate advocates, never missed an opportunity to encourage others to give: “There is joy in giving – I just love it. I wish I had twenty times the money I have so I can do 20 times more good. You can’t take it with you – you might as well do something with it while you’re here.”