Melbourne arts couple donates home to fund music and fine arts scholarships for disadvantaged students

Monash University students saxophonist Jonathan Cooper, singer Olivia Chamoun, and Callum Mintzis on trombone pose for Herald Sun photos at the Middle Park house that has been left to the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music.

Students from underprivileged backgrounds will now be able to pursue their studies in jazz and fine arts with financial assistance thanks to the generosity of Melbourne arts couple Tess Hill and Bill Hawtin.

Ms Hill, who passed away earlier this year, had left her Middle Park property to Monash University, stipulating the proceeds of the auction should be used to fund two named scholarships for disadvantaged students within the Faculty of Arts and Monash Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (MADA).

Associate Professor Robert Burke from the Sir Zelman School of Music said Bill Hawtin was a “great lover of jazz”, and wanted to help disadvantaged students live their dream to play jazz.

“Bill worked in radio and was very much involved in the jazz scene, both in the community sense and beyond,” Associate Professor Burke said. Tess Hill’s great passion, on the other hand, was fine arts, and throughout her life she accumulated many significant works, housed in her Red Hill property.

“They didn’t have children. So Bill wanted to leave a property (to Monash to create) scholarships for kids who didn’t have the same opportunities as others. It’s a great gesture.”

Associate Professor Burke said the scholarships will cover the entire cost of the degree, and will allow disadvantaged students the opportunity to focus on their art and passion instead of dealing primarily with financial burdens.

“We believe this donation will change the lives of many young jazz musicians in the future,” he said.

Bill Hawtin and Tess Hill.

Professor Callum Morton, Associate Dean, International and Engagement, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture said MADA was very “grateful and honoured that Fine Art at Monash is a beneficiary of Bill and Tess Hawtin's generous bequest”.

“Bill and Tess understood what a significant experience it is for students to study abroad, and were acutely aware that many students could not afford to take up these opportunities.

“According to their wishes, we will use the bequest to fund international travel scholarships for Fine Art students that couldn't otherwise contemplate it,” Professor Morton said.

The house sold for a mammoth $1.91 million on Saturday afternoon (July 14), $400,000 above expectations.

Monash University acting vice president of advancement, Marcus Ward, said the gift was life-changing for music and arts students.

“One of the top priorities at Monash is inclusion, and this sale means the most talented students, regardless of their financial position, can come to Monash University.”

The scholarships are expected to commence next year.