The Y in Australia today farewells esteemed Life Governor Ross Melville – a true giant of the Y – who passed away on 31 July, aged 78.
Recognised as an outstanding leader during his 15 years as the YMCA of Brisbane’s Chief Executive Officer, from 1992 until 2007, Ross was responsible for the incredible growth of the Y of Brisbane and Y-Care on all levels. Known for his hands-on approach and open-door policy, he advanced the Association to a strong and reputable organisation.
Although Brisbane has always been his first priority, he made himself available for extraordinary involvement in the wider YMCA Movement, such as conducting business reviews of struggling associations across Australia, his strong leadership within the Senior YMCA Management Group, a director of the Y’s former Superannuation Fund, founder and Director of YMCA E-Store (now Y Services), a board Member of the National Institute of Education and Training, a representative at significant World Council and Asia-Alliance events, a key figure in the development of YMCAs in Queensland and temporary tenure as National CEO for six months at a very critical time for the Australian Y movement.
Ross’s entrepreneurial flair and business acumen resulted in the acquisition of key properties from which to operate Y community programs. Properties owned by the YMCA in Brisbane grew from 3 to 17 sites over a 14-year period while he was CEO. He was a charismatic leader and mentor for many staff members and always encouraged and supported young managers to achieve their best. Ross’s way of giving experience to his managers was to challenge them, make them think differently, set high goals, take different approaches and stick to their values. He had a way of bringing out the best in people.
Ross had a long-term desire for and lobbied strongly for the housing needs of the disadvantaged in the community. He was the driving force behind the development of a Y presence on the Gold Coast in 1993 and, when suitable land was identified in Nerang, he saw a way to assist with the growing housing problems that were evident at the time and construction soon began on a major housing complex. The Board of Directors of the Y believed that a project of such significance as the Y Housing project at Nerang deserved to be named after a very worthy person and had no hesitation on bestowing this honour on Ross. Consequently the property become known as “Melville Place”. To further support his vision, two further housing complexes have now been developed with plans for more.
Another deep area of concern Ross held was for young people who could not cope with mainstream education. After years of hard work, he was able to drive the work of the Y such that we now have ten special assistance schools across Queensland that successfully cater for marginalised young people.
Apart from the Y, Ross was involved in many other not-for-profit clubs and community associations and one very close to his heart was the Southside Community Group which provides outstanding dividends and benefits to 11 not-for-profit community organisations. Ross steered its strategic direction and grew the asset base of the company leaving a strong and unique organisation that benefits the community. He is remembered on the wall of honour at Club Southside.
His advice was often sought from Councils, Politicians, businesses and other YMCAs and this was generously given and valued. During his involvement with the Y he raised the profile of the organisation and promoted the work and programs across many levels. His strong belief in child protection led to him advising the committee that introduced the Blue Card system to Queensland and set a high standard for other states to follow.
Although Ross retired from the position of Chief Executive Officer of YMCA Brisbane in 2007 he remained heavily involved in specific project work and fundraising and continued to work many voluntary hours for the long term good of the Brisbane association. He never lost his interest in its progress.
There are many, many stories that depict the character of Ross Melville – and a character he was. We will remember his incredible business acumen, his amazing vision, his entrepreneurial flair, his belief in the rewards of hard work, his sense of humour, his sense of justice, his loyalty to friends, his wise advice, his kindness for those in need, his support for the vulnerable and his belief in doing good in the world.
He had a positive influence on such a large number of people with whom he worked and has left an amazing legacy that will benefit future generations.
He will be long admired …….. fondly remembered ……… and greatly missed.