Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been appointed chair of the UK based Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s leading foundations. She will succeed Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 Director and current Wellcome Trust chair, who is stepping down from the role in April 2021.
Gillard served as Australia’s Prime Minister from 2010-13, championing policies such as education reform, emissions trading regulation, and provision and sustainability of healthcare. In her post-political career, she has served as the Chair of Global Partnership for Education, a leading organisation dedicated to expanding education access and quality worldwide, and Beyond Blue, Australia’s leading mental health awareness body.
‘It really is a dream come true to have the opportunity to chair Wellcome,’ said Gillard in a statement. ‘I will relish supporting and speaking up for scientific research into key health challenges. I look forward to working with all those in the Wellcome family.’
Gillard will be joining Wellcome, a prolific funder of health and medical research, at a moment of particular influence. As concern about coronavirus has grown, Wellcome director Jeremy Farrar has become an influential figure in the UK‘s response to coronavirus. Farrar sits on the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and Public Health England’s Serology Working Group where he has played a key role in pressing for a global response to the pandemic – opposing nationalism in the development of tests, drugs, vaccines, and the distribution of supplies.
A global outlook has become increasingly important for the foundation, which established an office in Berlin in early 2019 as Britain prepared to exit the European Union. The choice of a new chair who could bring an international view was important for the foundation, said Wellcome deputy chair Michael Ferguson to the Financial Times. ‘We wanted someone who could help Wellcome establish its place in the world. [Gillard] has a deep interest in healthcare and in mental health in particular, which is going to be one of our areas of focus in future. And she works in a consensual way.’
Unlike almost all charitable foundation boards who typically re-pay only expenses, the Wellcome Trust provides remuneration to members of its board of governors. A remuneration committee staffed by the governors sets the pay; however, they exclude themselves from discussion of their own personal package.
According to its annual report, the salary of the chair is over £140,000 and has been in this range for several years. In 2019, total governors’ remuneration exceeded £625,000, a 16 per cent decrease since 2018, when the sum neared £750,000.
Wellcome’s director Jeremy Farrar was paid over £500,000 in 2019, almost certainly making him the UK’s highest paid Foundation director.