Geoffrey & Betty Betts Family Fund
Geoffrey (Geoff) and Betty Betts arrived in Geelong in 1949 from their birthplace Sydney together with their son, Richard. Two more sons, Peter and Michael, joined the family in 1950 and 1951 respectively. Married in 1942 in wartime Australia, as a result of a blind date, a partnership of over 72 years was created until Geoff’s death in 2015.
Geoff had left school early during the depression and undertook night school studies in accounting. Post war, he decided on a career in retail that was partially influenced by his wartime friendship with Lionel Rough, who worked for Geelong institutions, Bright and Hitchcock (pre-war) and Lindsay & McKenzie (post war). Geoff’s clarity of thought and attention to detail had been recognised by his then employer Buckingham’s in 1946 when he wrote their company manual for which he was paid a bonus of $50. Geoff had also lectured in the Army School at Osborne House, North Geelong in 1945.
Lionel Rough invited Geoff to join him in Geelong in 1949 as part of a longer term succession strategy for George Lindsay, who was the founder and owner of Lindsay and McKenzie. Lionel Rough, with Geoff as a junior partner, acquired Lindsay and McKenzie on 1st July 1956. Lionel’s tragic death in early 1957 saw Geoff assume control of the company, later joined by John Wade. Under the guidance of Geoff and John, Lindsay’s (as it became known) grew from a single store operation to 14 stores in 1968. In that year, Lindsay’s was sold to the Myer Emporium Ltd as the basis for that company’s expansion into discount retailing. When Geoff retired as Managing Director of what was then the renamed Target Australia in July 1976, there were 54 Target stores throughout Australia, managed from a Head Office which Geoff had insisted be located in his home town, Geelong.
Geoff had always found time to devote to other community organisations, starting with an active involvement in The Geelong College, which he served in a number of roles from the mid-1950s until the turn of the century when these tasks were taken over by his sons, Peter and later by Michael. During the 1960s, he became a member of the Rotary Club of Geelong, an active membership which was to last over 50 years and see him serve Rotary in many ways including as Chair of Australian Rotary Health. For this and other community service, including The Geelong Hospital Board, The Gordon Technical College Board and Chair of the Eastern Beach Restoration Appeal, Geoff was awarded an AM. This added to a previous award of an MBE for services as Chair of the Australian Services Canteen Organisation. In all of these roles, Geoff utilised those same skills first recognised in 1946. At the turn of the century on 31st December, 1999, Geoff was recognised by the Geelong Advertiser as one of the 100 most influential citizens of Geelong in the 20th century.
While predominantly supporting her husband by raising their family, Betty shared Geoff’s strong commitment to helping those less fortunate. She maintained an active role in Meals on Wheels and was a long-term volunteer in the Brotherhood of St Laurence Opportunity Shops in Geelong.
Geoff and Betty’s strong community values have inspired a deep sense of community involvement by their sons and now into the third generation of the Betts Family.