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Dame Elisabeth Murdoch: A philanthropic career

/ Dec 06, 2012 7:26AM / Print / ()

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch: A philanthropic career

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch couldn't have crammed much more into her 103 years, nor have been expected to give much more away.

The Murdoch ministry matriarch died overnight, leaving a legacy of generosity, philanthropy and sharing her time with others.


"If you've got money it's perfectly easy to give away, it's nothing to be proud of," she once said in an interview with ABC. "But it's being involved and knowing what you're helping and really being committed."

Dame Elisabeth certainly demonstrated such commitment. She's long been an example of what one person can achieve through philanthropy, and is estimated to have supported 100 charities annually.

It was a career, and a way of life.

"Be optimistic and always think of other people before yourself," she said on her 100th birthday.

She loved to keep busy, even up until very late in her life. "I am a great believer in being overstretched. I think we do our best when we are tested," she said on her 98th birthday.

So she kept up-to-date with all the organisations she supported, keeping a pile of annual report on her bedside table, according to News reports today. "I make myself read at least half a dozen every night before I earn the right to read what I want to read," she once said. "That means I'm reading until 12am or 1am."

Dame Elisabeth was a long-time supporter of the Royal Children's Hospital, where she served on the board for 33 years, as well the National Gallery of Victoria, where she was its first female trustee and led the development of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. She's also worked with other arts organisations like the Australian Ballet, Opera Australia and Bell Shakespeare. She regularly opened her home, Cruden Farm, to the public, oftentimes using such events to raise money for local hospitals and charities.

She's accepted awards for Women of the Year, Victorian of the Year, Australian of the Year and the Great Australian Philanthropy Award. She's also been handed the keys to the City of Melbourne and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. In 1982, she received an honorary doctorate of law from Melbourne University, and another in 2008 from Monash.

Born and raised in Victoria, Elisabeth entered the public spotlight at 19 when she met then 42-year-old, Melbourne Sun managing editor Keith Murdoch. Together, they bore four children before Keith died suddenly in 1952 when Elisabeth was only 43.

While her offspring have gone on to build incredibly powerful empires around the world, she's preferred the quiet life in comparison, giving her money, time and name for the benefit of others from her beloved home in Langwarrin, Victorian.

"Throughout her life, our mother demonstrated the very best qualities of true public service," Rupert Murdoch said in a statement announcing her death Wednesday night. "Her energy and personal commitment made our country a more hopeful place and she will be missed by many.''

Click here to view the gallery of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's philanthropic career.

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