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Dame Elisabeth Murdoch passes away at 103

Posted by: AAP | 6 December, 2012 - 6:57 AM
Vale: Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. <i>(Photo: Pat Scala/Fairfax)</i>

Celebrated philanthropist and matriarch of the Murdoch empire, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, has passed away at her Langwarrin home surrounded by family at the age of 103.

Her son, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, said his mother would be mourned by thousands of Australians who had been touched by her generosity and decades of kindness.

LISTEN BELOW: Neil Mitchell interviews Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at The Order of Australia Victoria Branch dinner on 7th December, 2007

"We have lost the most wonderful mother but we are all grateful to have had her love and wisdom for so many years,’’ he said in a statement released on behalf of her extended family.

"Throughout her life, our mother demonstrated the very best qualities of true public service.

"Her energy and personal commitment made our country a more hopeful place and she will be missed by many.’’

Speaking with Neil Mitchell, Premier Ted Baillieu described Dame Elisabeth as a 'beacon of love' who was loved by many people.

LISTEN: Premier Ted Baillieu with Neil Mitchell

Dame Elisabeth was a personal friend of Mr Baillieu's mother and said despite her family's wealth, she was 'unpretentious'.

"She just cared so much about other people and she never, ever worried about herself. I think it's an incredibly endearing and charming quality."

Mr Baillieu said Dame Elisabeth who took great enjoyment out in writing and receiving handwritten letters.

"I'm the beneficiary and the recipient of some beautiful handwritten letters from Dame Elisabeth in her 100s and I treasure them," he said.


Premier Baillieu with Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at her 102nd birthday. (Photo: Justin McManus)

An avid lover of gardens, Mr Baillieu said a garden in her name would be fitting memorial to 'one of the most wonderful Australians and Victorians of all time'.

"I think in tribute to her extraordinary love of gardens and all things landscaped, there is an opportunity and an idea there," he said.

"I think even the trees and the rosebushes will be shedding a tear today."

Speaking with 3AW Breakfast, News Limited Victoria Managing Director of Editorial, Peter Blunden, said Dame Elisabeth was a 'truly inspiring person' and a 'general national treasure'.

LISTEN: Peter Blunden speaks with Ross and John

"She will leave an extraordinary legacy for not only this city but this country," he said.

"People used to melt in her presence, quite frankly. I went to many functions, even very late in her life when she'd arrive in her wheelchair and she'd just get a standing ovation."

Mr Blunden said while there would be a private funeral, he believed there would be a public memorial service to pay tribute to the late Dame.

Her death was confirmed by News Limited in a statement released late on Wednesday evening.

Dame Elisabeth had survived a bad fall less than three months ago in which she broke her leg and went to hospital.

"Very depressing, but hoping and praying,’’ Rupert Murdoch had tweeted in September shortly after the fall.

She died peacefully on Wednesday night at Cruden Farm, her beloved Langwarrin garden estate set on more than 54 hectares in Melbourne’s outer southeast.

Dame Elisabeth was the wife of Sir Keith Murdoch and mother to four children including Rupert Murdoch, Anne Kantor and Janet Calvert-Jones.

Her eldest daughter, Helen Handbury, died in 2004.

A patron of the arts, she had celebrated her 103rd birthday in February this year with grandson Lachlan Murdoch at a concert in her honour at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

She was a Companion of the Order of Australia, a former president of the Royal Childrens Hospital, and in 1963 was appointed a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen.

Dame Elisabeth had supported an estimated 100 charities annually and was beloved for her life-long commitment to helping others.

News Limited chief executive Kim Williams said the country would be mourning the loss of an extraordinary figure.

"We feel the loss intensely because she was the wife of Sir Keith Murdoch and mother of our chairman Rupert Murdoch, both towering figures in our national story and the builders of our own media heritage here at News,’’ he told News Ltd on Thursday.

HWT board chairman Julian Clarke added: "Dame Elisabeth has been an ever-present influence in our company and will be sadly missed by the many employees who knew her personally.’’

Dame Elisabeth has 77 direct descendants, including 50 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the Murdoch family is asking for donations to be made to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

In a statement, her family said details of a memorial service would be confirmed shortly, but her funeral is expected to be a private one, despite her years of serving the public.

with Ellen Feely

LISTEN: Neil Mitchell interviews Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at The Order of Australia Victoria Branch dinner on 7th December, 2007:

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Leave your tributes to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch below

Blog comments Your Say

  • To Matt the proud un-Australian.

    If you could achieve the many friends and be so loved
    as this truly wonderful person as the late Dame Elisabeth was, you would earn
    the respect she had.
    Perhaps you should have seen
    the interview shown on channel 2 with Andrew Denton.
    See if your marbles are still
    rolling at 103 years ?

    celine Sunday 9 December, 2012 - 2:20 PM
  • @leemob, Dame Elizabeth did not have to live of her son Rupert, hubby Keith left her very well provided for. As for not working a day in her life: well yes, probably as far as a being out in the work force but she worked tirelessly for her charities and if you have been listening to people who have called 3AW you would have heard that she was very much 'hands on' at home and did not simply rely on hired help. In any case your comments are silly and short-sighted.

    Gloria Friday 7 December, 2012 - 4:24 PM
  • I agree totally with you Matt. This lady probably never knew a hard days work in her entire life. Very easy to give and be charming when you never have to wake up worrying bout how you will pay your bills.A nice lady? I'm sure she was. Living off her evil son's earnings.

    leemob Friday 7 December, 2012 - 2:49 PM
  • was saddened to hear of the passing of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch this morning, i went to visit cruden farm a few months ago and to have been able to spend a day enjoying cruden farm is still a very special memory to me i have always admired the work she has done and her wonderful personality and down to earth nature and watching on tv tonight and hearing the beautiful tributes to dame elisabeth was wonderful, RIP Dame Elisabeth you will never be forgotten I am glad I got to see the wonderful gardens you created at cruden farm also my deepest sympathy and my thoughts and prayers to the Murdoch family on the loss of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch from Damian Altona Meadows

    Damian Thursday 6 December, 2012 - 10:56 PM
  • Condolences to the Murdoch family on the passing of such a graceful, caring and devoted lady!
    It was a privelidge to have met her all those years ago in a little fruit shop in Karingal Hub, where she would come and do her own shopping, just like any other little old lady going about her business, with a twinkle in her eye and a caring smile on her face.
    To me you were our very own Queen of Victoria. Now you are an angel in heaven. May your legacy live on forever.

    Ann Hammond Thursday 6 December, 2012 - 10:28 PM
  • Yes, a truly beautiful woman. I think we could all take a leaf out of her book......she is truly inspirational and I hope her legacy lives on forever. R.I.P
    We need to name something in memory of this true Australian.
    Something that depicts all that she has done...

    kay rimbaldo Thursday 6 December, 2012 - 5:36 PM

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