Actor shines the spotlight on gifts in wills

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Former Sydney Ensemble Theatre actor Michael Ross is taking a leading role when it comes to charities. He already knows where he wants some of his money to go when he passes away – a charity close to his heart.

The 73-year-old Dulwich Hill resident is encouraging more Australians to follow his lead, as Include a Charity Week approaches (9–15 September).

Nearly 90 charities will unite that week to encourage Australians to consider leaving a gift in their will to their favourite charity.

While 25 per cent of Australians say they would like to leave a bequest, only 7.4 per cent carry through with their intention.

Michael is one of the generous minority. He is leaving a gift in his will to Aruma (formerly known as House with No Steps and The Tipping Foundation), one of Australia’s leading providers of services for people living with disabilities.

Michael first came into contact with Aruma 28 years ago when he visited their packaging site to prepare for a role in a play. Called The Boys Next Door, the play was about young men with a disability living in a group home.

“The visit was an unforgettable experience which allowed me and the rest of the cast to learn more about what it means for people to live with a disability. It was also a chance to meet some of the wonderful, joyous personalities involved,” he said.

Michael’s connection to disability issues also stems from John, his brother. John sadly passed away at 21 from a mysterious illness which triggered behavioural episodes of anger, violence and compulsive eating.

In the 1960s, doctors couldn’t provide a diagnosis for John’s illness. It was only many years later that Michael learned his brother had Prader-Willi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that disrupts physical and intellectual development. Following years of confusion and grief, being able to put a name to his brother’s condition brought a great sense of understanding and clarity to Michael and his family.

More than two decades after his initial visit, Michael recently returned to Aruma to chat with the packaging team and to reminisce about the fond memories he has of the organisation.

“I have such a personal connection to this organisation and the people they help and the excellent work they do. As a result, they were high on my list for a bequest,” he said.

While still performing occasionally, Michael is also a counsellor, using his knowledge to help aspiring and experienced actors deal with issues including depression, anxiety and relationship management.

He says you don’t need to leave thousands of dollars to a charity. After providing for loved ones, a modest amount left to a favourite cause is perfectly acceptable.

Include a Charity Campaign Director Helen Merrick agreed.

“Many Australians feel that gifts in wills are only for the wealthy to give, but this is not true. Any amount is appreciated and can go a great way towards helping charities to deliver their programs,” she said.

Michael suggested that people think about what they value and what causes resonate the most with them.

Michael is confident that Aruma will continue its work long after he’s gone. As a result, he has left them a gift in his will towards programs that help extend autonomy and provide inclusion and dignity to Aruma’s clients and families. Find out more about Aruma at

Many other well-loved charities also support the Include a Charity campaign, including Save the Children, Australian Red Cross, World Vision Australia, The Smith Family, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Fred Hollows Foundation, Greenpeace, National Breast Cancer Foundation, McAuley Community Services for Women, Surf Live Saving Western Australia, Mission Australia, RSPCA and Cancer Council Australia.

Include a Charity has a checklist people can review before they go to write or update their will, as well as a list of charities to consider for a charitable gift. During Include a Charity Week, the team will be urging solicitors who specialise in will-writing to ask their clients to think about gifts in wills. For more information, visit



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