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Philanthropist James Fairfax Dies

16 January 2017 at 2:11 pm
Wendy Williams
Prominent philanthropist and one of Australia’s “greatest patrons of the arts” James Fairfax AC has died, aged 83.

Wendy Williams | 16 January 2017 at 2:11 pm


Philanthropist James Fairfax Dies
16 January 2017 at 2:11 pm

Prominent philanthropist and one of Australia’s “greatest patrons of the arts” James Fairfax AC has died, aged 83.

The former chairman of media group John Fairfax Ltd died on Wednesday at his home in Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands.

He was the eldest son of newspaper proprietor Sir Warwick Oswald Fairfax and played a major role in the growth and success of Fairfax Newspapers during his career as a director on the Fairfax board from 1957 and chairman from 1977 to 1987.

Fairfax was also well known for his philanthropy and in particular as a champion of the arts, donating art works worth more than $30 million to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

He was also a life governor, council member and generous donor for the National Gallery of Australia, which said it looked on him as “one of its founders”.  

“James Fairfax will always be remembered as one of Australia’s greatest patrons of the arts and a  collector and connoisseur of formidable skill and talent,” the NGA said in a statement.

Chairman of the National Gallery of Australia Council Allan Myers said: “On this sad day we remember James Fairfax as a deeply committed supporter of the arts in Australia, who made an enormous contribution to the National Gallery of Australia.”

Australia Council for the Arts chair Rupert Myer AO said Fairfax would be greatly missed.

“To those who knew him and for the organisations that were touched by his generosity and thoughtful stewardship, James was an advocate, an unflinching supporter, a confidant and a true friend,” Myer said.

“His quiet, imaginative and strategic philanthropy was always made in full heart, and it will endure.  

“The arts in Australia in so many different forms, have benefitted enormously from his connoisseurship, discernment and taste and his great capacity to share these for the greater public good.”

In recognition of his significant and sustained contribution to the arts and the community, Fairfax was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1993 and a Companion of the Order in 2010.

Last April Fairfax gifted his Retford Park estate, estimated to be worth $20 million, to the National Trust of Australia, marking the largest gift received by the organisation in its 70-year history and one of the top philanthropic gifts of 2016.

Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said Fairfax had made an “immense contribution to Australian society”.

“His generous spirit and philanthropy has created a legacy that will continue to enrich the lives of Australians for many generations to come,” Hywood said.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Fairfax is survived by his half-­sisters Annalise Thomas and Anna Cleary, his half-brothers Warwick and Charles Fairfax, and by his stepmother, Lady Mary Fairfax.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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