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Donor Profile: Lara Nicholls

'You don’t have to have a great estate to make a difference'

As a late-stage postgraduate student, Lara says that her estate is 'pretty modest', but she knew leaving a bequest to Burgmann College in her Will was important to her, to support future visual arts projects and Burgmann residents who are creating extraordinary works in the ANU School of Art and Design.

Lara Nicholls describes her appointment to a Residential Fellowship at Burgmann College as 'serendipitous'.

As a master’s student, she had lived in a residential college as an art history tutor and enjoyed the experience, so when she was accepted into the PhD program in the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University, she became interested in Burgmann’s Residential Fellows program.

'As soon as I read about Burgmann, I knew it was the right place, so I emailed then-Principal Sally Renouf. One hot afternoon I met Sally at Burgmann, with two of my daughters in tow. She toured us around the College and we pretty much agreed on the spot.'

Lara took up her Residential Fellowship in January 2019, and in 2020, she co-led a group of School of Art and Design students to produce the Women Power exhibition, which coincided with International Women’s Day and included works from Burgmann women artists through the decades.

She later collaborated with the ANU Gender Institute to produce the Reading the Room podcast, where 40 Burgmann residents and alumni joined the wider ANU community to read sections of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own to stay connected during COVID lockdowns—a community-focussed effort that earned her the 2021 Bruadarach Award.

'I am in awe of the arts and cultural talents of this community', says Lara.

The COVID era was a time of artistic creation for Lara, and of personal reflection. A friend’s difficulties wrapping up the affairs of a recently-deceased family member caused Lara to reconsider her Will. How could she ensure her affairs were in order should she pass unexpectedly, and how could she establish a legacy?

'Both the tertiary education and the arts sectors are tragically underfunded in Australia, so anything that I can do to help students in these fields achieve their goals seems like a good use of capital', says Lara.

'I want students in the visual arts field to be acknowledged for their achievements, and to know that Burgmann College has a strong history of supporting the creative arts. My main job now is to build my career so I can leave something meaningful and valuable behind for others.'

Lara says it was simple leaving a bequest in her Will, with her solicitor adding a single, clear paragraph. She also says it helped her to clarify her life goals, granted her greater autonomy to decide how she wants to be remembered, and gave her a hopeful vision for generations of family members.

'It’s the one thing in your life that you can control and influence without interference. And just imagine, in 50 years’ time, your child or grandchild might be rocking up to Burgmann College to award a prize to a young student whose life is about to change forever, because of your generosity and foresight.'

Lara Nicholls Bruadarach Award with Ziggy 1
Laura Nicholls wearing her 2021 Bruadarach Award and holding her dog, Ziggy.
Thumbnail Readingthe Roompodcastavatar EH
Lara collaborated with the ANU Gender Institute to produce the 'Reading the Room' podcast.
Woman Power Poster UPDATE
Poster from the Women Power exhibition Lara created.
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