A legacy on ice: The Jackson McKnight Skating Development Fund
Written by Jemimah McMurray
Donald McKnight OAM and Colin Jackson were iconic figures in the Australian figure skating community and played a pivotal role in ice skating across Queensland. Through a giving fund in the APS Foundation, they continue to help our nation’s sporting elite compete on the global stage, even beyond their lifetime.
A lifetime partnership of achievement and contribution
President of Ice Skating Australia for more than two decades, Don was a figure skating judge at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics and received an Order of Australia Medal for service to ice skating. Colin, his partner of 53 years, was also a well-accoladed athlete, professional show-skater and coach who paved the way for two world junior championships to be held in Brisbane.
Left: Don McKnight skating solo in the early 1950s (credit: Keith Messenger and Peter Nixon)
Middle: Don with Pamela Gaye performing ‘Rose Marie on Ice’, Bristol Hippodrome, England, 1953
Right: Colin Jackson and Loryn Gough, 1965 Australian Pair skating champions
Gillian Levett, the couple’s close friend, said their work to support skating athletes was a lifelong project.
“Colin and Don donated their time, energy and effort to set up Queensland for an ongoing, strong future. They ran a small ice rink in the ’70s, and their dream was to develop a full-size rink in the state.”
Exceeding their goal, they built two full-sized ice rinks for the Queensland Ice Skating Association. Gillian sees the immense impact this has had on the country’s skating opportunities. “As well as having world-class training facilities, now the Association manages those and can use the income to sponsor athletes. That was terrific, forward-thinking work,” said Gillian.
"Their ideas and directions laid the way for skating in Australia. If I could have met them today, I would just say thank you. "
Brendan Kerry, Australian Olympian
On their deaths in 2017 and 2018, Colin left $500,000 of the estate to support the sport of figure skating and to assist young athletes in competing on the international stage. In 2019, as nominated executor, Gillian set up the Jackson McKnight Skating Development Fund as a giving fund with the APS Foundation to bring this intention to life.
Since its inception, the Fund has provided substantial support for figure skater Brendan Kerry via the Australian Sports Foundation.
“It was terrific for me at this first allocation of funding to have such an outstanding candidate,” says Gillian. “Brendan was a clear-cut front runner in Australian skating. There was no one else of his calibre.”
The support proved critical to the athlete’s competitive future three years later.
Supporting an Olympic dream
When Covid shook the world in 2020, the expenses of an international training regime, strict border closures and ever-changing visa policies accumulated rapidly.
Brendan Kerry, three-time Australian Olympian and flag bearer at the Beijing Winter Olympics, says the financial support from the Skating Development Fund was vital in achieving his Olympic dream.
(credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos – Getty Images)
“If I didn’t have this support, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to keep training. It meant that I was able to focus on skating. I could keep travelling, keep training, and make it to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics,” says Brendan.
Beijing was his third Olympic appearance after placing 29th in 2014 and 20th in 2018. He became the first figure skater to carry the honour of flag bearer for Australia at the 2022 Winter games.
"None of this would have been possible without them and what they left behind in their honour."
Brendan says his performance in Beijing was the proudest moment of his skating career.
“The Olympics is a highlight in so many people’s lives, and I only had that opportunity thanks to Colin and Don. If I could have met them today, I would just say thank you. Their ideas and directions laid the way for skating in Australia. None of this would have been possible without them and what they left behind in their honour.”
Gillian smiles, thinking how satisfied Colin would be to see the impact of his giving fund.
“He would have been thrilled to bits to see Brendan carrying the flag at the Olympics and skating the way he did. It was the best skating performance he’d ever done. Colin would have been very proud to have been part of that.”