Fundraising for the forgotten


With Red Faces, his annual talent quest, psychiatric nurse Brenton Williams from Adelaide has raised over $250,000 since the turn of the millennium, all to support those living with mental illness

Meet an unsung hero from Adelaide bringing together communities to support people living with mental illness to improve their quality of life

Brenton Williams is a remarkable man. A psychiatric nurse of 44 years, Williams is passionate about supporting his patients and others living with mental illness to improve their quality of life and to ensure that they do not become forgotten members of our community.

Recently, Williams organised ‘Red Faces’, a variety night come talent quest with special guest judges, guest entertainment and charity auctions, stand up comedy, dancing and more to raise $32,000 for GROW SA—a non-profit organisation enabling personal growth and development for people experiencing a mental health condition or illness or having difficulty.

“I became interested in fundraising in 1995 whilst working in the psychiatric unit at Alfred Psychiatry in Melbourne when I was asked to organise a raffle to support patient amenities,” says Williams. In the following year, he organised the a dinner dance with raffles and auctions at St Kilda Town Hall in Melbourne with great success resourcing sponsors to support mental health.

Several other fundraisers like a car boot sale supporting patient amenities at Alfred Psychiatry. “In 1999, due to family reasons I relocated to Kimba in the outback of SA and continued my fundraising expertise organising a car boot sale at Kimba Showgrounds supporting Kimba Hospital and the patients there,” says Williams, who was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

At the turn of the millennium, Williams, a huge fan of the TV program ‘Hey Hey its Saturday’, which had a segment called Red Faces where members of the community were invited to come on the show each week and do something funny to win a prize, decided to organise his own Red Faces fundraiser.

“So in 2000 I organised my first Red Faces Fundraiser, a talent quest, at Kimba Hotel in outback SA supporting Kimba Hospital patient amenities. I then did Red Faces in 2001 & 2002 for Kimba Hospital at Kimba Hotel,” says Williams, who also runs travel packages for auction via email that coincides with the event forming a substantial part of the money raised.

Prizes are resourced by resourcing sponsors and money is raised on the night by several ways such as selling tickets to the audience, a raffle, auctions and lucky straws and lucky envelopes.

“In 2003, I moved back to Adelaide to resume working in Psychiatric Nursing at Glenside Hospital so I organised Red Faces 2003 and 2004 at Burnside Town Hall, and then in 2005 at Goodwood Community Centre raising lots of funds for supporting mental health awareness in South Australia,” says Williams.

In 2006, Williams moved to New Zealand and worked as a nurse in a neuro rehab ward at Auckland Hospital and organised Red Faces there to collect funds to improve patient amenities.

“The Red Faces of the past eight years have all been great successes, with all the funds supporting mental health awareness in SA. The past 8 years has raised $175,000 and prior to that probably $65,000 in NZ and $10,000 in Kimba. That’s $250,000 raised through 18 years of Red Faces,” says Williams, who is all geared up for Red Faces 2019 in the Top Room at the Arkaba Hotel.

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