DRIVEN by a desire to help Australians in need, these Brisbane-based companies have thrown out the old rule book in pursuit of a new type of business model that will help fund good causes.
IT takes a lot to melt the heart of a hard-bitten corporate lawyer.
But for Glenn Vassallo that moment came back in 2008 when he watched his psychologist wife Eliza counsel a group of fatherless children in Brisbane.
“It was Father’s Day and these were kids who had lost their father through illness or other circumstances,” Vassallo recalls. “They didn’t have any sort of father figure in their lives. It was like a lightning bolt for me and I determined I had to help those children.”
However, when Vassallo took a proposal to his then law firm to establish a charitable foundation to fund a counselling service it was rejected out of hand.
GRT was formed in 2011 and is Australia’s only law firm established solely to run a charitable foundation.
The GRT Foundation now operates two charities, Child’s Play and Giveability. Child’s Play is a child psychology practice employing nine qualified therapists headed by Eliza Vassallo.
It provides counselling services to children and young people afflicted by anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse, family violence, grief and loss. “Some of these kids have been exposed to death and murder,” Vassallo says.
Through the foundation, Child’s Play has been able to develop a clinic at Morningside that helps approximately 90 children each week. Meanwhile, Vassallo’s partner Scott Standen and wife Jane established Giveability, which assists special needs children and their families with access to equipment, therapy and health services. It provides short term, free-of-charge loans of things such as wheelchairs, standing frames and walkers.
To help support all this good work, GRT specialises in corporate law advice covering takeovers, initial public offerings and litigation. The firm has a growing track record advising Australian and international listed and unlisted companies across a range of industries including resources and technology.
The firm employs about 20 lawyers, many of whom are involved in helping run the foundation. “Lawyers have a bad reputation and have been described as a leech on society,” Mr Vassallo said. “We have come up with a law firm that has a unique model that works. Child’s Play is sustainable and we don’t need any more funding.
“The administrative team at (our office in) Queen Street answer all the phones for Child’s Play so that the actual clinic is very peaceful and calm for the families. The staff also do Christmas collections so that the kids can be given gifts.”