Celebrating our women: Penny Fowler, Chairman of the Good Friday Appeal

For 150 years, the RCH has grown from strength to strength due to the generous philanthropic support of our community. As International Women’s Day approaches, we want to recognise some of the incredible women whose philanthropic contribution has helped make our hospital what it is today.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch became part of the RCH family in 1933 when she was invited to join the Committee of Management by then President, Lady Ella Latham. As president, she successfully advocated for the rebuilding of a new children’s hospital in Parkville, opened in 1963 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

A passionate supporter of the RCH Good Friday Appeal, Dame Elisabeth’s longstanding dedication and commitment to the hospital were admired by all those touched by her contribution.

Today, the spirit of generosity lives on through Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s granddaughter, Penny Fowler, Chairman of the Good Friday Appeal. As we kick off the 2020 Good Friday Appeal, Penny shares why her grandmother is one of her biggest inspirations and her favourite Good Friday Appeal memories.

Tell us about your involvement with the RCH.

My connection to The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is that I am the Chairman of the Good Friday Appeal and have been since 2013. I also have a long family association and connection with the hospital back to my grandparents, my parents and other family members.

My first memory of the hospital is when I used to visit the paediatrician, Elizabeth Turner, with my mum.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A day to recognise women around the world – our achievements both big and small. It also shines a light on the many ways women contribute to society in the home, in the workplace and in the community.

Which women are you inspired by?

The two women who inspire me the most are my mother Janet Calvert-Jones and my late grandmother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. They are both remarkable in all that they have done to give back to the community and inspire me to do as much as I can.

And through the Good Friday Appeal, I met a truly inspirational woman, Bea from the Vietnamese community – she arrived by boat, built a new life here in Melbourne and now gives back to her community.

What is one of your greatest achievements? 

One of my greatest achievements is being a mother of five children.

What is your favourite RCH or Good Friday Appeal memory?

So many great memories – visiting patients and touring the hospital is always a humbling experience.

I love meeting volunteers out in the regions, being in the money counting room on Good Friday or at the Teddy Bear Hospital. I love taking calls in the phone room from the public who are always so generous.

This year, the RCH is celebrating 150 years of care, what do you think the RCH’s future looks like?

The future looks bright with the continued support of the community who really care about the health of our children.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch. Image courtesy of The Royal Children’s Hospital Archives.
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