Sir James Cruthers
We all know of the long and exceptional service to the WA community of Sir James Cruthers. Thus to honour his life and service in this hallowed cathedral is truly uplifting. Jim was a choir boy here in his early life and 70 years later a philanthropic leader in its restoration.
From the outset Jim understood his duty of care to others. The 10 shillings from his first job at the newspaper was divided 8 to his mother for board, 1 shilling for transport and one for everything else. As he advanced as a young journalist, his boss Mr McCartney appointed him in 1948 to develop the publicity for a nation-wide appeal for the Red Cross. The following year he was involved in the fund-raising campaign to purchase a linear accelerator to begin nuclear medicine in Perth, at Charles Gairdner Hospital. He quickly learned how charities operate and more importantly how to energise them.
As his stellar news and entertainment business career progressed Jim recognized the monopolistic status of both the newspaper and the first television license. He always took the view that the license belonged to the people. This demanded that he take an altruistic view of community service. Personally that led to him serving on at least 12 Government boards and involvement in more than 30 charities. On the corporate side Jim through Channel 7 sponsored young people’s awards, summer schools, the Festival of Perth, the Lions Miss Personality charitable quest and countless other worthy causes.
There was under Jim a corporate creed that never tried to scrape every last dollar out of the community.
In 1968 Jim founded the most successful ongoing charity in our state’s entire history. Telethon in its first year in 1968 raised 91,000 dollars and 21 cents. This year it surpassed 25 million. Channel 7 under Jim bore every single cost involved in the event, so that every cent raised went to Telethon. He always said Telethon was good for the community as it gave every child 1 day in the year to think of people other than themselves.
During the years up until 1981 when Jim stepped down from running local media, he lent his name and expertise to numerous worthy causes and events — the first president of Taverners, surf life saving, the Festival of Perth, the Australian Open golf and so on. John Cruthers once had occasion to look at his father’s tax return and it had 2 pages of listed individual donations.
As we have heard, Jim then moved to New York for a decade with News Corporation. During these years as a major international business figure, commuting weekly for a time on Concorde to Europe, he and Sheila continued their links with WA and built up their extraordinary art collection with John.
I came to know them well on their return in 1990. Sheila had a difficult eye condition which required a lot of attention and eventual surgery. From his new position as Chairman of the Sunday Times, Jim set about applying himself vigorously to charity and community work. Only now he was able to bring his extraordinary vision, strategic thinking, business acumen, personal reputation, contacts and powers of persuasion to bear.
He was uniquely effective. When the fledgling Telethon Kids Institute was struggling for funding in the early 1990’s, he joined the Board long enough to spearhead its pivotal capital raising campaign and recruit new board members. He then slipped quietly into the background.
He chaired or masterminded crucial funding campaigns for the Lions Eye Institute, the Association for the Blind, the Urology Foundation, the Arthritis Foundation and others. He was a key participant in UWA’s Hackett Foundation, the Berndt Museum, the Art Gallery of WA Foundation, the Government House Foundation, the Duyfken project and others.
When Curtin University wanted to build the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, it was Jim who went to Canberra and extracted a multi-million dollar pledge from the PM of the day.
The magnificent Cruthers art collection also reflected kindness to struggling artists, support over many years for the nation’s public galleries and private dealers. In the end the collection became a priceless endowment for the University of WA.
I think the words of John and Sue encapsulate the Jim Cruthers we all knew best: “The values he cherished most were generosity and kindness, to be a good member of society and to contribute to it.”
He has surely contributed substantially to the shape and values of our post war society in Western Australia. Not only did he touch so many lives with his community activities during his life, but the legacy of what he created in so many fields will endure for generations.
Sir James Cruthers Biography