LUCY TURNBULL DEVISED A FUNDRAISING DINNER FOR THE SYDNEY CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL IN 1997 – ONLY A MEETING WITH THE TRUMPS COULD MAKE HER MISS THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY.
Lucy Turnbull had a good reason to miss this year’s Gold Dinner. The prestigious annual event to raise money for the Sydney Children’s Hospital was marking its 20th anniversary and it was definitely something to celebrate. Unfortunately it clashed with meeting US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania in New York. But that happens when you are married to the Prime Minister.
“I think we had to go,” Turnbull tells WISH, laughing. “But I was very sad to have missed out on the 20th anniversary as it was a real landmark and a sensational evening. It raised a huge amount of money and that is just fantastic.”
Held at Carriageworks in Eveleigh, in Sydney’s inner-south, the dinner did indeed raise a huge amount of money – $2 million from the 450 guests who attended the black-tie event. There was the $1500-a-ticket entry price, an auction of donated goods from the best fashion and travel brands across the world (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Paspaley and Emirates among them), and MCs Lisa Wilkinson and David Campbell managed to cajole $20,000 pledges from the attendees.
It took the total money raised by the Gold Dinner for the hospital to $25 million over the 20 years – a large sum by any measure. “It has been a wonderful achievement,” Turnbull says. The former Sydney Lord Mayor conceived the event in 1997 when she was chair of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation. She, along with fellow foundation board members Lyndi Adler and Skye Leckie, wanted to create a signature dinner for the hospital.
“We decided we needed to have a regular event to give the Children’s Hospital more recognition and the funding capacity to do the great work it does,” she says. Adler was the first chair of the Gold Dinner committee and Turnbull says the “original vision” was very much hers. “She wanted to make sure people would have a great night as well as raise money for a good cause,” says Turnbull, now an event ambassador.
And so from the very beginning the Gold Dinner has become known for its incredible venues as well as its spectacular food and wine (or more aptly, champagne). The first one was held at Barford, a heritage-listed private home in Bellevue Hill in Sydney’s eastern suburbs (reportedly on the market with an asking price of $60 million). In 2004, it was held in a marquee in Hyde Park that actually enclosed the landmark Archibald Fountain. That was Turnbull’s favourite: “Not everyone loved the idea because it enclosed [the fountain] but to have the Archibald Fountain as the focal point of the room was pretty special.”
This year was no different. Carriageworks was transformed by painted foil backdrops with spectacular images projected on them. “All the dinners have been amazing,” says Turnbull. But what about her event in New York and the First Lady? “She was absolutely charming, a lovely person. She was terrific. We were there for only 36 hours so it is a bit of a blur now but it was a great visit.”
The dinner at Carriageworks, amid painted foil backdrops, had Lisa Wilkinson and David Campbell as MCs, above right, and art dealer Justin Miller as auctioneer, right.