Before his death from stomach cancer in July, WA grain farmer Chris Reichstein set up a foundation that is changing lives in the Esperance community and beyond.

Story Hannah Siemer   Photos Corrina Ridgway

Soon after he was confronted with his mortality, Chris Reichstein began planning for life ‘PC’ – Post Chris. After a year of discomfort initially diagnosed as indigestion, it was confirmed the grain grower from Esperance, WA, had stomach cancer. Pragmatic in his approach to the path ahead, Chris didn’t coin the term ‘PC’ to be morbid, but to help those around him adjust to what came next. 

Following his diagnosis, Chris became hyperaware of the wealth he had accumulated over his four decades of farming and developed a strong desire to share that wealth with his community. An idea had sat dormant in Chris’s mind for too long – the establishment of a foundation investing in local people and initiatives, to ensure the community’s vibrant and resilient future long after he was gone. 

Chris was as organised as he was determined. Even when he was severely unwell, he continued to drive the project forward. On almost weekly 1450km return trips to Perth for chemotherapy, Chris would squeeze in numerous meetings, doing his utmost to get the foundation off the ground. 

Launched in 2019, it was called the Mt Burdett Foundation after Chris’s farm. It channels its support through two funding arms – the Esperance Community Foundation and the Rural and Regional Advancement Foundation. Before he passed away in July this year, aged 59, Chris got to see several initiatives receive funding. 

The Mt Burdett Foundation allocates money to initiatives promising longevity – “not just short-term sugar hits,” Chris said in an interview. “We’re not hand-outs, we’re hand-ups.” 

This story excerpt is from Issue #140

Outback Magazine: December/January 2022