Woman Hall, Eliza Rowdon


Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Eliza Hall was born in Melbourne in 1847, the eldest daughter of pastoralist and parliamentarian George Kirk and his wife Elizabeth. In 1874 she married businessman, Walter Russell Hall who amassed a considerable fortune through his involvement with the Mount Morgan mine. Walter Hall was a generous donor both to the Mount Morgan community and to charitable and patriotic causes in Sydney. Eliza took a particular interest in charities providing for women and children. 'No organisation which had as its object the improvement of the moral, physical or social conditions of the community', it was said, 'ever appealed to her in vain' (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 February 1916).

On Walter's death in 1911 Eliza, who had remained childless, found herself in possession of a substantial estate. Initially she planned to use the money to commemorate her husband, but her advisers persuaded her to add her own name to the £1 million trust she had decided to establish, the largest benefaction ever made in Australia at that time. Her decision was applauded as 'a fine expression of responsibilities for the right use of great wealth' (Morning Bulletin, 22 March 1919). The trust which benefits charitable, educational and religious causes came into operation in January 1913. Hall's aim was 'to reduce the suffering of those in trouble and to encourage all to improve their own positions' and distributions were to be made in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, the states in which the couple had lived and from which they had derived their fortune (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 February 1916).

When Eliza Hall died in 1916 her estate was distributed amongst family and friends. The trust continues to function, its most visible beneficiary being the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research which was established in 1915 (http://www.thesurvivalfund.org.au/TheWalterAndElizaHallTrust/). Walter and Eliza Hall are remembered in a window in St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 March 1919).

Published Resources


  • Fraser, Kay, A Remarkable Gift: 100 Years of the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust, University of Queensland Press (UQP), St Lucia, Queensland, 2012. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources