Meet George

George Alexander was a man of vision and generosity. His life story is a tale of achievement in the face of great odds and it exemplifies the ethos that has helped build modern Australia.

Founder – George H. Alexander AM (1910–2008)

A teenage English immigrant, a farm worker, a mechanic, a lecturer and a businessman, George was, in many ways, a lifelong student and teacher. In the words of his biographer Dr Peter Yule, George Alexander was 'a self-made man whose life experiences inspired a wish to help others.' His story provides inspiration for anyone who believes that determination and perseverance can overcome adversity.

Early years

GA aged 21 portraitBorn in London in 1910, George was raised by his grandparents in Hampshire. He was a bright student with an ambition to become a motor mechanic, but his family could not afford the cost of an apprenticeship. He left school at age 13 to work in a bicycle shop.

In 1926 at the age of fifteen, George Alexander migrated alone to Australia under the Big Brother Movement, an organisation which brought young British men to Australia to work on the land. He spent 18 months working on a dairy farm at Willatook in Western Victoria and then went to try wheat farming near Marnoo, 50 km from St Arnaud. After the harvest he was sent by the Big Brother Movement to work at Liparoo in the semi-desert Mallee country. Sadly the crops he helped plant failed - it only rained once in the time George was there.

Smiths motors2Times were tough during the Depression years and in 1930 he was out of work for several months in Melbourne. He returned to Willatook for a short time and then moved to nearby Koroit, near Geelong where he worked in a local garage and finally realised his dream of becoming an A grade mechanic.

A love of learning

His education had only just begun and he enrolled in evening classes in mechanics and management at the Gordon Institute, where he also became a part time lecturer. During the Second World War he became a production engineer and then manager of a munitions factory and, being classified as an essential worker, was not allowed to enlist in the armed forces.

George studied Industrial Management and Executive Training at RMIT and was awarded the John Storey Award from the Department of Industrial Management. He was 32.

Inventor

Neta Posters Skipping thumbGeorge Alexander combined his knowledge of mechanics and engineering with a creative mind and invented some highly successful products during his business career. After the war finished, he used his savings to set up a factory to manufacture one of his inventions, a system of brass hose fittings. He called his hose fittings business "Neta". The Neta business flourished and became widely known in the 1960s thanks to its well-known "Happy Pappy" advertising campaign. 

Businessman

The business expanded through the acquisition of smaller companies and was highly successful. With the intention of retiring, George sold the business in 1976 and moved to Queensland.

Rather than retiring, George simply shifted gears and developed extensive interests in property development. He also became more cognescent of environmental issues and continued to work on inventions.

Philanthropist

George Alexander created the Foundation in order to use his wealth in a constructive way.  Pragmatic and straightforward, George figured that you couldn't take your wealth with you, so it was better to give while you live. He was particularly aware of the obstacles he had faced as a child and his own lack of education, so he was inspired to help talented young people make the most of their potential.

His years working on farms, together with Neta's involvement in water supply had given him an awareness of the environmental problems of rural Australia and he believed that much can and should be done to repair the damage that has been done to the environment since European settlement.  Even at the age of 97 he was taking steps to promote the future development of his property along environmentally sustainable development principles.

George Alexander remained active and alert, and maintained his interest in the work of the Foundation until his death in February 2008.

Biographer Peter Yule wrote a short biography The Life of George Alexander in 2006. A revised edition has since been published and is available online.

Donate The scholars and fellows supported through the GAF-funded programs are committed to their studies, to giving back to the community and to doing their utmost to uphold the investment that has been made in them. If you would like to invest in the education of some talented and dedicated young Australians, please make a tax-deductible donation online by clicking on Donate or contact us on 03 9650 3188 for other options.

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