Born Leonie Gibson, she was educated at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne, and entered the University of Melbourne in 1942, where she was a resident in the women's section of Trinity College known as Janet Clarke Hall and was awarded an A. M. White entrance Scholarship. She took her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945, and later attended Oxford University, where she graduated Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in 1953. During her postgraduate years at Oxford she tutored at St Hugh's College.
Kramer was appointed Lecturer in English in 1958, then Senior Lecture and finally Associate Professor in English at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). She remained at UNSW until 1968, when she was appointed Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, the first female Professor of English in Australia. She was Visiting Professor at Harvard University's Chair of Australian Literature Studies (1981–82). She is an Emeritus Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney.
A major focus of her critical writing has been the works of Henry Handel Richardson. She also edited the Oxford History of Australian Literature (1981).
Dame Leonie Kramer has served on numerous public bodies during her long career. These include appointment to the Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1982–83), having served as a member of the ABC Board since 1977, the Secondary Schools Board (1976–82), the Council of the National Library (1975–81), NAATI (1977–81) and the Universities Council (1977–86).
Other appointments include serving as a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs (1988–96), Commissioner of the NSW Electricity Commission (1988–95) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of NIDA (1987–92). She has also served on the boards of large corporations including Western Mining Corporation and ANZ Banking Group.
In 1986 she received the Inaugural Britannica Award for the ‘dissemination of learning for the benefit of mankind’. Other awards include an honorary DLitt from the University of Tasmania, and honorary LLDs from both the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University.
She was appointed an Officer (OBE) of the Order of the British Empire in 1976. In 1983, she was made a Dame Commander (DBE) of the order. In 1990 she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, the highest civilian award in the Australian honours system.
Dame Leonie Kramer was Deputy Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1989–91 and Chancellor from 1991-2001. At the request of the Parliament and a hostile University Senate, the Governor of New South Wales empowered the Senate to dismiss the Chancellor of Sydney University in 2001. Dame Leonie retired moments before a controversial Senate meeting was to take place to dismiss her.
For some years Dame Leonie was a patron for United World Colleges in Australia; this is an educational movement that aims to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
She married Harry Kramer, a South African pathologist, in England in 1952. They moved to Australia in 1953, and had two daughters. Harry Kramer died in 1988.
In 2011, following worsening health associated with advanced Alzheimer's disease, her daughters admitted her to Lulworth House for full-time residential care. In 2012, at Lulworth House, she fractured her hip which substantially impacted her mobility.
- Henry Handel Richardson and Some of Her Sources (1954)
- A Companion to Australia Felix (1962)
- Myself When Laura: Fact and Fiction in Henry Handel Richardson's School Career (1966)
- Henry Handel Richardson (1967)
- Henry Kendall (1973) (with A.D. Hope)
- Language and Literature: A Synthesis (1976) (with Robert D. Eagleson)
- A Guide to Language and Literature (1978) (with Robert D. Eagleson)
- A.D. Hope (1979)
- Broomstick: Personal Recollections of Leonie Kramer (2012)
- Collected Poems (of David Campbell) (1957, 1989)
- Australian Poetry 1961 (1962)
- Coast to Coast: Australian Stories 1963-1964 (1965)
- Selected Stories (of Hal Porter) (1971)
- The Oxford History of Australian Literature (1981)
- The Oxford Anthology of Australian Literature (1985) (with Adrian Mitchell)
- My Country: Australian Poetry and Stories: Two Hundred Years (1985)
- James McAuley: Poetry, Essays and Personal Commentary (1988)
- The Multicultural Experiment: Immigrants, Refugees and National Identity (2003)
- Kramer, Leonie Judith - Australian Women Biographical entry at Australian Women's Archives Project
- University of Sydney "Chancellors" Gallery
- "College Scholarships and Exhibitions, 1942", The Fleur-de-Lys [Magazine of Trinity College], vol. VI, no. 42 (1942): 5, 34.
- Friends of the ABC website
- O'Brien, Joe (2001-07-02). "Dame Leonie Kramer resigns". ABC Radio. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- Leonie Kramer, Broomstick: Personal Reflections of Leonie Kramer, Australian Scholarly, North Melbourne, 2012, pp. 219-22.
- Elite Nursing Home under Investigation
John D Norgard
|Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission