Vale Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

Vale Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Vale Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

Philanthropy Australia is greatly saddened by the passing of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch on the evening of Wednesday 5 December, 2012, at the age of 103.

Over many years, Dame Elisabeth has generously supported a wide range of projects and organisations in the arts, education, medical research, conservation and social welfare.  Her support has enhanced the capacities of libraries, galleries, hospitals and artistic companies, as well as having allowed exciting new ideas in community development, rehabilitation and creative expression to take root and grow. 

Dame Elisabeth’s giving nature was ignited in her boarding school years, when she visited the Children’s Hospital, creating a lifelong dedication to the hospital and children’s causes. After her marriage to Keith Murdoch, her association with the hospital was strengthened when she was invited to join the management committee in 1933. She initiated the Good Friday Appeal and has participated in the hospital’s major fundraising efforts, taking over responsibility for the planning and construction of the new improved Children’s Hospital. After nine years’ work, the new hospital was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1963.

After resigning as president of the Children’s Hospital in 1965, Dame Elizabeth became the first female trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria. In ensuing years she became a strong driver for several arts-based organisations, including the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, and the Victorian Tapestry Workshop.  She has supported over 100 charitable organisations. Just a few of the organisations which have benefited from her support are the Australian Ballet, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Hanover, Opera Australia, Cottage by the Sea, Australian Bush Heritage Fund, Somebody’s Daughter Theatre, the Bionic Ear Institute and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

Dame Elisabeth’s great joy was her garden at her home, Cruden Farm, which has frequently been opened to charitable organisations for fundraising purposes.

Dame Elisabeth was a Life Member of Philanthropy Australia, which held a celebration of her life at the Melbourne Town Hall in 2003. Dame Elisabeth’s comment on the celebration was, “Philanthropy is such a joy - I feel I have been the fortunate one.  I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have had to become involved with the most splendid people.”

Dame Elisabeth led with her giving. She was never afraid to talk publicly about her support in an effort to encourage more Australians to follow her lead.

The depth and breadth of Dame Elisabeth’s generosity and engagement with those she supported, have become a benchmark for Australian giving.  She has become an early embodiment of the rising trend towards lifelong, engaged philanthropy.

The full extent of her largesse will probably never be fully known as she supported so many different charities as well as individuals- both large and small- with gifts large and small. 

Dame Elisabeth will be remembered as one of Australia’s greatest ever philanthropists.

Dec. 06, 2012

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