Elisabeth Murdoch (philanthropist)

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Elisabeth Murdoch

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, opening a drug rehabilitation centre in Melbourne, May 2005
Elisabeth Joy Greene

(1909-02-08)8 February 1909
Died5 December 2012(2012-12-05) (aged 103)
Melbourne, Australia
(m. 1928; died 1952)
Children4, including Rupert Murdoch
RelativesMurdoch family

Dame Elisabeth Joy Murdoch, Lady Murdoch AC DBE (née Greene; 8 February 1909 – 5 December 2012), also known as Elisabeth, Lady Murdoch, was an Australian philanthropist and matriarch of the Murdoch family. She was the widow of Australian newspaper publisher Sir Keith Murdoch and the mother of American international media proprietor Rupert Murdoch. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1963 for her charity work in Australia and overseas.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch sculpture


Murdoch was born in Melbourne on 8 February 1909, the third daughter of Marie Grace de Lancey (Forth) and Rupert Greene. Her grandfather, William Henry Greene, was an Irish railway engineer (later one of the three Commissioners of Victorian Railways) who emigrated to Australia and married Fanny, the fourth of the 10 daughters of George Govett.[1] Her mother's ancestors were Scottish and English; one of her maternal great-grandfathers was a lieutenant governor in the West Indies.[2] Elisabeth was educated at St Catherine's School in Toorak, and at Clyde School in Woodend.[3] She married Keith Murdoch, 23 years her senior, in 1928 and inherited the bulk of his fortune when he died in 1952. Apart from Rupert, her children are Janet Calvert-Jones, Anne Kantor and Helen Handbury (1929–2004). At her death, she had 77 living descendants.[4]


Murdoch devoted her life to philanthropy. Before her marriage she worked as a volunteer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[5] Dame Elisabeth Murdoch joined the management committee of the Royal Children's Hospital in 1933, serving as its president from 1954 to 1965. A 2003 article in the Melbourne newspaper The Age said: "Few can rival Dame Elisabeth's enormous contribution. Her interests are so many they need to be alphabetically catalogued: academia, the arts, children, flora and fauna, heritage, medical research, social welfare. Many of Melbourne and Australia's most cherished institutions, from the Royal Children's Hospital to the Australian Ballet and the Botanic Gardens, have benefited from her involvement. But Murdoch also devoted herself to less popular causes: prisoners, children in care, those battling mental illness and substance abuse."[6]

Murdoch was a Life Governor of the Royal Women's Hospital. She was the patron of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute[7] and of the Australian American Association (Victoria), founded by her husband. She was a patron and founding member of disability organisation EW Tipping Foundation and a founding member of the Deafness Foundation of Victoria. The first woman on the council of trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, Murdoch was a founding member of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop.[8] She was a member of the Patrons Council of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria. Her garden, "Cruden Farm", at Langwarrin, is one of Australia's finest examples of landscape gardening and is regularly open to the public. It was originally designed by Edna Walling.[9]


Orders and medals[]

For her service as President of the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Murdoch was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Civil Division (CBE) in the 1961 Birthday Honours list.[10] For her role in building a new children's hospital in Melbourne, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Civil Division (DBE) in the 1963 New Year Honours list.[11] In June 1989, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, Civil Division (AC) for services to the community[12] also receiving the Centenary Medal in 2001 for her philanthropic services to the Australian arts community.[13]


She was an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and helped to establish the Elisabeth Murdoch Chair of Landscape Architecture and the Australian Garden History Society. In 1983, Murdoch was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Melbourne[14] in acknowledgement of her contributions to research, the arts and philanthropy. Trinity College, Melbourne installed her as a Fellow in 2000.[15] That year a portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, AC, DBE for the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra was the first portrait commissioned of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. The image was composed by painter Christopher Pyett, adapted on computer by Normana Wight and woven by Merrill Dumbrell.[16] In 2001, Treloars gave her name to a new rose introduction.[17] Following extensive donations to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, a Tasmanian species of Boronia (B. elisabethiae) was named after her.[3] She was also awarded by the French government for funding an exhibition of works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin in Melbourne in 2002. In 2003, Murdoch was admitted into life membership of Philanthropy Australia, and awarded the key to the City of Melbourne, in an official ceremony at the Town Hall.[6] In 2004, a high school, Langwarrin Secondary College, was renamed Elisabeth Murdoch College to honour her work in the local community. Murdoch's charity work earned her the Victorian of the Year award in 2005 at age 96.[18] In 2009, the main performance venue of the Melbourne Recital Centre was named in her honour.[19] In 2010, Geelong Grammar School completed a new girls' boarding house named in her honour.[20]

In January 2007, aged 97 years and 11 months, she surpassed Dame Alice Chisholm as Australia's longest-lived dame.[21]


Murdoch was a patron of the Australian Family Association.[22]


On 5 December 2012, Murdoch died in her sleep at Cruden Farm, Langwarrin, Victoria at the age of 103.[23][24]


  1. ^ Murdoch by William Shawcross, 1993, Simon & Schuster, NY
  2. ^ "Ancestry of Rupert Murdoch". Wargs. Archived from the original on 2 June 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b Starck, Nigel (5 December 2012). "Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  4. ^ Stewart, Cameron; Rule, Andrew (6 December 2012). "Dame Elisabeth Murdoch: A long life devoted to others". The Australian. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  5. ^ Perkin, Corrie (30 May 2009). "Every gift makes a difference". The Australian. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b Szego, Julie (30 April 2003). "Melbourne honours its matriarch of generosity". The Age. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  7. ^ Neustatter, Angela (26 February 2009). "Murdoch matriarch reveals a few home truths on family". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Obituary". The Telegraph. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  9. ^ Backhouse, Megan (1 May 2015). "Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's beloved Cruden Farm open as Open Gardens signs off". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Supplement to the Gazette". London Gazette (42371). 10 June 1961. p. 4180. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 1 January 1963". London Gazette (42870). p. 21. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Australian Government. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Australian Government. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  14. ^ Mitchell, Lisa (13 June 2005). "Roll out the honours". The Age. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Trinity has three new Fellows". Trinity Today. Summer 2001. Archived from the original on 25 February 2002. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Dame Elisabeth Murdoch". Portrait magazine. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Great Performers - Victoria State Rose Garden". www.vicstaterosegarden.com.au. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Victoria Day Awards". Victoria Day Council. Archived from the original on 28 March 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  19. ^ Westwood, Matthew (2 February 2009). "Happy birthday for Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at Melbourne Recital Centre opening". The Australian. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Grand dame lends her name". 20 October 2010: 43. ProQuest 758980587. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ McNicholl, D.D (9 February 2009). "The longest dames". The Australian. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  22. ^ Australian Family Association Patrons
  23. ^ "Dame Elisabeth passes away at 103". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Rupert Murdoch's mother dies at 103". 3 News NZ. 6 December 2012. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2018.

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