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New Zealand-born Australian businessman and social entrepreneur, David Bussau (b. 1940), was in institutions and foster care as a child and young person. 

David was born David Thomas Williams in Wellington, New Zealand. David’s father, Lewis, abandoned his family of four children and David had no knowledge of him. 

When he was not quite nine, David and his younger brother, Bruce, were taken to the Anglican Boys’ Home at Lower Hutt, one of four cities that constitute the Wellington region of New Zealand. David settled quite quickly into his new home, helped by having a friend who lived there.

Not long after the two boys arrived at Hazeldene, their mother Marjorie came to take them home. 

He and Bruce were called to the front building. Their mother [who hadn’t been to visit] disappeared into Miss Menzies’ timber-panelled office, and then David and Bruce were summoned in. Miss Menzies looked directly at the boys. ‘It’s time to go home with your mother now, so please go and pack your bags.’ 

‘I won’t go,’ David replied. There was a stunned silence. 

‘David, I want you to come with home with me,’ his mother commanded. ‘Things will be better.’ 

‘I won’t do it, I’m not going with you,’ he said, with a rising voice. No amount of pleading would convince David to return to that house of neglect and abuse. ‘Leave me alone,’ he yelled and ran away. 

Miss Menzies said, ‘It might be best if you come back for him tomorrow.’ 

Marjorie Williams turned and left and didn’t come back the next day. David never saw or heard from his mother again (Tyndale, 7). 

Life at the Anglican Boys’ Home was routine, predictable, and safe. Although there was never enough to eat, the food was good, the boys were expected to do their homework, and they were encouraged to play sport. The home even had a swimming pool and “in summer the boys were the envy of the neighbourhood” (Tyndale, 9). Although not in winter when they still had to take a dip to “toughen them up”. 

A highlight was a party given in the boys’ honour by Arthur Clouston—who “had also grown up in an orphanage” (Tyndale, 12). Clouston was a “well-known identity in the Upper Hutt district” where he “owned and managed a large sawmill in the Akatarawa Valley”. The party, held on 6 March 1952, was for children at both St Saviour’s Convent School, Upper Hutt and the Anglican Boys’ Home where David lived. 

When he turned thirteen, David had to leave the home and go to the Sedgley Boys’ Home at Masterton (where apparently sexual abuse was rife), also run by the Anglicans. Life at Sedgley revolved around work. The boys were up at 5 am to milk the cows and before breakfast: 

 …they fed the chickens, helped prepare breakfast and lunch, and worked through a mountain of dirty clothing and linen in the huge laundry. After school they weeded the vegetable and flower gardens, mowed the lawns, finished the washing and ironing, and helped with the dinner (Tyndale, 15). 

On reflection, David saw the Sedgley schedule as “good training”. Unfortunately, that training assumed the boys would all go on to working-class occupations, and that they were of inferior intelligence to the other children at school who came from middle-class backgrounds. 

When he was seventeen, David had a stint in foster care with Lyndsay and Vera Bussau, who ran the Sedgley home for a time. When the Bussau’s left for Timaru, a seaside town on the South Island, David went to live with them and took on their surname. 

David and his wife, Carol, moved to Sydney in 1966. The ever energetic and entrepreneurial David was successfully running his own construction building by the time he was thirty-three, but questioning the accumulation of money for the sake of accumulating money. 

In 1974, in the wake of Cyclone Tracey, David travelled to Darwin and headed a national movement to assist with reconstruction. Not long after, he travelled to Bali to help survivors of an earthquake. Realising that traditional aid and development solutions can rarely break the cycle of poverty, David began offering small loans to locals. He established the Maranatha Trust, offering loans to people in poverty to enable them to become entrepreneurs in their local communities.

As a pioneer of microfinance, David teamed up with Al Whittaker to trial a similar programme in South America. Gradually, the pair expanded this model of development to other countries by forming Opportunity International. 

David Bussau has been recognised for his work in the development sector with an Order of Australia in 2001 and a Senior Australian of the Year Award in 2008 


“About Us David Bussau and our History”, Opportunity International Australia. 2022.

Tyndale, Philippa. Don’t Look Back. The David Bussau Story. Allen & Unwin, 2004. 

Image available here.