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2 min read

Turning pain into a positive: The Lana Wilson Memorial Fund

Profile of Bronte Chaperon
Written by Bronte ChaperonPosted on 9/8/2022

When mum-of-four Lana Wilson passed away in 2013, her eldest child, Melanie Gandevia, knew she wanted to honour her mother’s memory in some way. 

The pair were close – “super close”, Melanie says. They’d talk every day on the phone, discussing everything and nothing, happy to hear the other’s opinion on all sorts of topics. Lana’s relationships with Melanie’s siblings, Chaya, Kane, and Ethan, were just as tender; a testament to Lana’s big-hearted nature. 

Melanie describes her mother as a doting matriarch with a deep love for her children and grandsons Max and Taj. She had a penchant for 60s and 70s music – especially Bob Marley – and was an avid animal lover.

Lana and Melanie.

“My mum adored animals, it started when she was a kid,” Melanie says. “Someone once told me that people knew she would take in any animal she came across. So, people who wanted to get rid of their kittens would dump them on her front lawn! 

“We had pretty much every pet you can think of when I was growing up: many, many cats, a couple of dogs, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and even a goose.”  

The family lived in Evans Head; a small coastal town in Northern NSW with roughly 3,000 residents. Everyone knew everyone, Melanie remembers. “Growing up, I couldn’t get away with anything, as someone would report back to my mum!”  

Tragically, Lana suffered a fatal asthma attack at just 51 years old, leaving behind her life partner Graham and devoted family.  

“The turnout for her funeral was huge,” Melanie says. “I remember someone describing it as ‘stopping the town’ for the day.” 

Lana’s passing inspired Melanie to begin her giving journey in her mother’s name, donating to the causes she knew her mum was passionate about: children, animals, and people in regional communities. 

“She didn’t have a lot of money, but she was always very generous and willing to help absolutely anyone who needed it,” Melanie says.  

“After mum passed away, I made a donation to Taronga Zoo in her name to help build the Lemur Forest Adventure space. 

“She loved Taronga, and her name is included in the mural at the front of the enclosure, which is pretty cool.” 

Melanie continued giving, switching gears from charitable donations to structured giving. She’d read a newspaper column by Australian financial counsellor and author of The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, and concluded that a Gumnut Account would be a suitable option for her needs. 

It’s a way to remember her and keep her spirit alive. This is my way of continuing her legacy

“I definitely preferred the idea of smaller, ongoing donations than a large upfront sum.  

“More practically, it’s a way for me to do something without having a huge amount of money upfront to create a fund,” Melanie explains. 

Gumnut Accounts are a simple, straightforward, and practical way to start a structured giving journey. At Australian Communities Foundation (ACF), Gumnut Accounts can be opened with as little as $500 per quarter or $2,000 per annum, and with regular tax-deductible donations, will mature into a Named Fund (donor-advised fund) over time. 

“The Lana Wilson Memorial Fund is named after my mum,” Melanie says. “It’s a way to remember her and keep her spirit alive. This is my way of continuing her legacy. 

“It was reassuring to work with Australian Communities Foundation and know that the correct structures and governance arrangements are in place.  

“Partnering with an organisation with vast experience and networks was very appealing, as I wouldn’t have known where to start!” 

Once the Lana Wilson Memorial Fund matures into a Named Fund, Melanie plans to use her fund to benefit children, animals, and people in regional communities – “the kinds of people my mum helped when she was alive,” she says. 

Melanie will work with ACF’s Grants Team to develop a strategic plan that maximises her giving and prioritises her focus areas. 

“I like that I’m presented with a wide range of organisations to grant money to, organisations that I might never have found on my own.”   

“It’s such a beautiful way to honour someone and turn the pain of losing them into something positive

Looking forward, Melanie hopes to get her two kids, Lola and Henry, involved in choosing the organisations they’ll support in their late grandmother’s name. 

“I think she’d be amazed and so, so proud,” Melanie smiles. “I don’t think she could have ever imagined that there would one day be a charitable fund in her name. 

“It’s such a beautiful way to honour someone and turn the pain of losing them into something positive.”