Pearcey Foundation History

Encouraging Australian ICT innovation through awards, events and public policy initiatives


In 1998, a few days after Dr Pearcey's obituary appeared in the Melbourne Age, Ian Dennis, Managing Director of Whitehorse Strategic Group Ltd, and well known Australian I.T. industry figure, contacted Phillip Steele, then Victorian president of The Australian Computer Society and first suggested the idea of a commemorative award, named for Trevor Pearcey, to recognise the pioneering achievements of Australians in the IT industry.

The Australian Computer Society strongly endorsed the idea. Ian wrote to the Australian Information Industries Association shortly thereafter, with the strong support of AIIA Board Member John Gwyther, and received an equally positive response. Over the following months the original idea was translated into the establishment of a continuing Foundation.

At the instigation of Ian Dennis, the Pearcey Foundation Inc. was formed on 1st November 1999 with the initial financial support of:

  • ACS Victoria - represented by then Chairman, Prof. Philip Steele
  • AIIA - represented by then Chairman, John Gwyther
  • Computerworld (Peter Isaacson publications) - represented by then editor: John Costello
  • Whitehorse Strategic Group Ltd. - represented by then Chairman, Ian Dennis.


That Australia should continue to be at the forefront of innovation and application of ICT is self-evident to anyone who examines the economic and social dynamics of our age. Our work, our wealth, health, learning and entertainment are increasingly enabled by ICT. It is easy to take this for granted and see the industry in the image of a few international companies that have become the central powerhouses of industry growth, driven by a global agenda.

The visibility of the IBMs, Microsofts, Suns, News Corps and Ciscos tends to obscure the contribution of Australian researchers, innovators and managers to the success of these industry giants and to the achievements of the many Australian companies and individuals that bring the benefits of the technologies to bear on our personal and national needs.

The Foundation aims to make Australia proudly aware of the achievements of the many Australians, young and old, who have made those ICT achievements possible. Appropriately, the Foundation is named after Dr Trevor Pearcey, the architect and pioneer of the world's fourth digital computer, CSIRAC, created in Sydney in 1949/50 and now preserved in the Museum of Melbourne. This iconic piece of electronics and the name of its design team leader, is employed by the Pearcey Foundation as a platform to promote the significance of the ICT sector on the Australian economy to Australians.

The Pearcey Foundation seeks to identify and reward the best of those individuals and help their example inspire more Australians to choose and excel in ICT careers.

Ongoing Activities

The Foundation operates broadly across the Australian Information Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, from celebrating achievements through national and state awards, to being involved in debate and public policy on critical national issues such as productivity, the digital economy and national infrastructure.


Each year, the Pearcey Foundation organises events and makes awards including:

  • National Awards which recognise outstanding achievement in Australian ICT covering the Pearcey Medal and the Benson Entrepreneur Award. From 2012-2014 , the national awards were presented as part of the iAwards. In November 2015 the Pearcey Foundation collaborated with the Australian Computer Society to hold our National Awards as part of the Digital Disruptor Awards in Sydney
  • State Awards to recognise upcoming individuals in each Australian State
  • National Debates on critical issues affecting the Australian ICT Industry
  • Pearcey Oration by an eminent Australian on critical ICT issues

The most prestigious Australian ICT Award to an individual is the Pearcey Medal.


The Pearcey Foundation is also proactive in ICT initiatives. For example, in order to accurately measure the impact of ICT in the Australian Economy, the Pearcey Foundation has put forward a Proposal for a Digital Economy Economic Studies Institute (DEESI). The aim of the Institute would be to bring together fragmented and duplicated sets of statistics and analyses scattered among many government, academic and industry organisations. In response to the 2014 Victorian Governments call for comments on their Digital Economy initiative the Pearcey Foundation submitted a detailed recommendation including examples of similar institutes established around the world.


This website aims to maintain a historical record of great Australian ICT contributors as well as serve to highlight current activities and initiatives. An October 2015 article by Prof Justin Zobel illustrates the relevance of Dr Pearcey's efforts and is a typical record we aim to keep and promote to the nation.

The Pearcey Foundation thanks all those who have contributed to this site. We are always looking for volunteers, so please contact us if you are interested.

Special thanks to our webmaster Rick Harvey who has run and hosted this site for most of its history.


Pearcey Foundation Membership

Early on, the Pearcey Foundation planned to inviting members to support the Foundation and its aims.

  • Companion of the Pearcey Foundation (CPF) - appointed by the Pearcey Board and including all existing Pearcey Medalists and Hall-of-Famers.
  • Fellow of the Pearcey Foundation (FPF) - appointed by the Pearcey Board and including all existing Pearcey Award recipients and Pearcey Patrons.
  • Member of the Pearcey Foundation (MPF) - nominated and appointed by the State Pearcey Committees.

Though this idea continues to be under discussion. Current thinking of the Pearcey Board is for a simpler general membership structure.

Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award

While the Pearcey Foundation has been very consistent with its awards, this Award started as the Pearcey National Award for Young Achievers, then the Benson Award, and then to the current Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award.

One of the primary goals of the Pearcey Foundation is to promote the ICT sector to all Australians and in so doing attract the best and brightest to make a career in our industry. The future of our nation rests, to a large extent, upon our national science and engineering capability – the Pearcey Foundation is committed to securing our future as a nation by attracting the best and brightest into science and engineering and ICT, in particular.

Early in the Pearcey Foundation's history, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) generously agreed to support the Pearcey Foundation in these efforts by underwriting the Foundation's recognition of outstanding individuals drawn from the next generation of young engineers, scientists, and ICT professionals nationally. This leveraged the program of state based awards presented each year at events supported by like-minded industry organisations including AIIA, the ACS in each state, the ACS Foundation and AiG.

In 2011, to lift the profile of these awards, the Pearcey Foundation, with the active support of CSIRO through their ICT Centre, began elevating a selected State Award recipient for national recognition. The national award was named after Tony Benson, the 2001 Pearcey Medalist. The recipient of this award was selected based on: 1. An independent selection committee will be drawn from the state based Pearcey Committees 2. The criteria will based upon the criteria already established by each Pearcey State Committee 3. The finalists for the National Award will be the winners of the prior year Pearcey State Awards (in the case of 2011, there were 6 state awardees in 2010).

In 2016, in order to get more clarity about the awards program, the Pearcey Foundation generalised the national award to be focussed on entrepreneurs who have - taken a risk, made a difference, and are an inspiration. Since then, the Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award has become an important part of the Pearcey Foundation annual awards program.