A Stan Perron Charitable Foundation tribute to Professor Kakulas

While rightly lauded as a scientific trailblazer in his field, the late Emeritus Professor Byron Kakulas AO lays claim to another significant achievement.

It was the work of the young, virtually unknown Byron Kakulas in the 1960s that inspired one of WA’s most generous philanthropists to donate tens of millions of dollars to fund scientists across a broad spectrum of child health research.

The late Stan Perron AC was a deeply committed member of the Belmont Rotary Club back in 1969 when he attended a presentation by Professor Kakulas about his efforts to help boys suffering muscular dystrophy.

The presentation prompted Rotary clubs across Perth to run a fund-raising campaign of which Stan Perron was an enthusiastic supporter.

In an interview recorded for the Perron Group in 2015, Professor Kakulas reflected on the beginning of this extraordinary relationship.

“West Perth Rotary Club took this on as a major project and recruited all the WA Rotary Clubs to get involved in a major appeal for my research which took place in 1969.

“The Belmont Club, which Mr Perron was one of the leaders, took it on very energetically and that’s when I first got to know him personally.”

A rare partnership between a highly successful businessman and a medical research pioneer had begun, something Mr Perron reflected upon in a rare interview for the Perron Institute before his passing in late 2018.

“I watched Byron Kakulas from day one since he first started, and he spent his whole life trying to find a cure for muscular dystrophy, which you must admire him for…nobody else has spent as much time and effort as he has,” Mr Perron said at the time.

Likewise, this feeling of mutual respect was reflected by Professor Kakulas in an interview for a documentary on Mr Perron’s life recorded in 2015.

“My relationship with Stan was — here I am devoting my life to medical research – here he is in a position to help.

“What impressed me about Mr Perron’s support was the sincerity; he had faith in what I was doing, and he unquestionably got behind the work and he understood it — my role was to explain how it would be done and it had his support.”

The work of Professor Kakulas was unquestionably one of the inspirations for the establishment in 1978 of the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation. Stan Perron’s philanthropic support continued as the work of Professor Kakulas and his research peers led four years later to the establishment of the Australian Neuromuscular Research Institute.

In 2017, the Foundation’s ongoing support was recognised by renaming what had become known as WANRI to the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science.

The decision to allow his name to be used in such a fashion perhaps illustrates the deep respect a man renowned for being intensely averse to publicity had for Professor Kakulas: “They said my name would help raise funds – that’s the only reason I agreed to it.”

Now Chair of the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, Elizabeth Perron observed up close the esteem in which her father regarded Professor Kakulas.

“In many ways, Professor Kakulas reflected everything Dad identified as laying at the heart of his philanthropic giving: A person who was hard-working, innovative and profoundly committed to improving the health of children in WA and around the world.”

“That is why I know Dad would have mourned the passing of a man he held in such high regard and deference.”