Robert or Bob Salzer began the Foundation in 1987 with a gift of $500,000. Over the remainder of his life Bob steered the board in a direction which gave priority to the Victoria State Opera of which he and Betty Salzer were keen supporters. Bob and Betty, in conjunction with the Foundation, sponsored several opera productions.
After Bob's death in 1995 Betty joined the board of the Foundation, and Betty added another $500,000 to the trust fund.
With the demise of the Victoria State Opera the Foundation adjusted its approach to the support of opera by placing emphasis on support of students and rising performers in singing and dance. On Betty's death in 2002 the whole of the Salzers' assets were added to the Foundation, so enabling it to increase the scope and scale of its activities.
Bob Salzer was born in Vienna in 1924, the son of a banker of that city and was brought up in a traditionally Viennese way to treasure the arts, particularly music, especially opera, and above all the opera of Richard Wagner.
The advance of Nazism forced the departure of the Salzer family from Vienna. They took refuge in the United Kingdom, where, in the early 1950s Bob met Betty Reid, a young Canadian teacher who happened to share a holiday coach tour with him. They migrated to Kenya where they married in 1954. They moved on to Australia in 1961 and settled in Melbourne.
In Melbourne Bob was soon successful in the building industry, constructing many substantial buildings, including city office towers, over a period of 30 years or more.
The Robert Salzer Foundation carries on the commitment to the arts which was such a feature of the Salzers' life work.