Is there anything Ray Martin can’t do? Most people know him as a massively successful television presenter and journalist, a powerhouse in the industry for decades. But few know of his selfless crusade for children’s charity the Humpty Dumpty Foundation (HDF).
Ray is patron of the foundation and has helped raise funds to save and aid the lives of sick children for decades. The cause is as close to Ray’s heart as his other charitable work with the Fred Hollows Foundation and Indigenous groups.
It all started more than 30 years ago when he and a friend, Paul Francis, were asked by Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital to organise a ‘Wimbledon Ball’ to raise $35,000 to paint the walls of children’s ward. Ray’s son Luke had just been born at the hospital.
“We raised about $80,000 and were overjoyed with our instant success,” Ray says. “They asked us to do it again, and again, and three decades later the amazing HDF team have raised over $85 million to buy life-saving medical equipment for 420 hospitals and children’s units across Australia. It’s been quite a journey.”
Ray’s journalistic profile and skills play no small part in the success of HDF, which relies on convincing donors to part with their money for a worthy cause. After all, he’s conducted more than 10,000 interviews during a stellar career, including stints as the ABC’s North America correspondent, a reporter on 60 Minutes on Channel Nine and host of Midday and A Current Affair on that network. He has covered monumental moments in history such as the anti-Vietnam war protests, presidential elections, the aftermath of 9/11, the Indonesian tsunami disaster in 2005 and the Olympic games. Since leaving Channel Nine, he’s made numerous documentaries and programs for networks including SBS.
Ray has won countless awards including five Gold Logies, Australia’s most popular television award. He has also been awarded with an Order of Australia medal in 2011 for his efforts in both journalism and in the Aboriginal community. He’s proud to have Indigenous heritage.
“Journalism, especially television journalism, gives you a public profile that not all careers offer,” Ray says. “As a result, charities often ask people like me to host their fundraising events, hoping we can be a ‘drawcard’ to sell tickets to everything from lunches and gala balls to trivia nights.
“It’s hard for a TV-type like me to say no to a worthwhile charity when, by just turning up for a few hours to help with speeches or raffles, you are able to make a difference.”
Ray says the HDF has raised money for everything, from a couple of expensive ambulances to 420 medical drills, called EZ10’s, which cost only $1600 each, but undoubtedly save toddler’s lives. Incubators that stabilise desperately sick premature babies can cost $60,000 each. HDF has bought and distributed such incubators and thousands of other pieces of medical equipment, but one item has made Ray especially proud: a high-tech transportable cot, purchased for Royal Darwin’s paediatric unit.
Ray explains that because of delays in waiting for suitable planes to evacuate critically ill children from Darwin to hospitals in the south, some kids just didn’t make it.
“Three years ago, at our first HDF ball in Darwin we raised the money and bought this high-tech transportable cot,” he says. “Why it’s so critical for sick, newborn babies in the Northern Territory is that sometimes they need to travel down to Brisbane, or even Melbourne for specialised, life-saving treatment, which is simply not available locally.
“Well, in the two and half years since Darwin has had its own, dedicated transportable cot, the RDH paediatricians tells us there have so far been 22 babies saved, who probably wouldn’t have made it. That kind of news makes it all worthwhile.”
Ray is constantly amazed at people who will donate $500, $5000 or much more, over and again at dinners over the years, to help sick children they’ll never see or meet.
“If you show them that their money won’t be wasted, as we show them often, Australians are incredibly generous,” he says. “But occasionally I’ll be surprised how people, whom we know can afford to help, will sit on their cheque books. Being rich doesn’t make you generous.”
Ray says he is proud of what journalism can do to help change society for the better.
“But we don’t fix cancer. Or save babies lives,” he says.
“A few years ago a senior nurse at RNSH thanked me for my Humpty Dumpty efforts, saying that as a paediatric specialist, she now felt for the first time in her long career – without feeling she was fighting to save babies lives with one hand tied behind her back – she now had the equipment to do her job. I couldn’t quite explain how satisfying that was for those of us who work at HDF.”
HDF founder Paul Francis says, when he first dreamed of creating Humpty Dumpty in 1996, it was about supporting the children’s ward at the RNSH, but it grew into a nationwide charity.
Humpty Dumpty also provides visits by ‘Clown Doctors’ on a weekly basis to lift children’s spirits. They receive substantial donations collected by sponsors through the Balmoral Run event and many more events are in the works to help support the foundation, even holding the annual “The Great Humpty Dumpty Ball”.
After COVID-19 related delays over the past year, a recent gala ball in Darwin, hosted by Ray, raised another $750,000.
“We have a wonderful team working for us and we rely on corporate and community donors to help get the best medical equipment and care for kids,” Paul says. “We call these amazing humans and organisations “Good Eggs”, in line with our Humpty Dumpty name.
“We can safely say that Ray, our great friend and patron who has given decades of commitment to the cause, is definitely a Good Egg himself.”
In a sad irony, Paul’s twin daughters were born six weeks premature at RNSH and required humidicribs and breathing apparatus to help them adjust to their new surroundings. Those pieces of equipment had Humpty Dumpty stickers all over them.