Mary Fairfax

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Fairwater, the Double Bay home of Lady Fairfax
Born Maire Wein
(1922-08-15) 15 August 1922 (age 94)
Warsaw, Poland
Residence Fariwater, Double Bay
Nationality Polish-born Australian
Education Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney

Mary Fairfax AC, OBE (born 15 August 1922)[1][2] is a Polish-born Australian philanthropist. Born Maire Wein, she became Mary Symonds on her first marriage and as the third wife and widow of Sir Warwick Fairfax she is known as Lady Fairfax.[3]


Fairfax was born in Warsaw and emigrated to Australia as a small child with her parents. She attended the Presbyterian Ladies College, Sydney. She was formerly the owner of several Sydney dress shops before her marriage to solicitor Cedric Symonds, with whom she had one son, Garth. She married Warwick Oswald Fairfax, a scion of the Fairfax family, on 4 July 1959 and they had three children, Warwick Fairfax, Anna and Charles.

Fairfax moved to Manhattan, New York, in 1988. She purchased a penthouse known as Chateau in the Sky, on top of the Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue, for US$12 million. She returned to Australia in 1999, feeling she had never been entirely accepted into New York society. The penthouse in Manhattan eventually became New York's most expensive penthouse and was put up for sale in 2013 for an asking price of US$125 million. Previous tenants had included John Paul Getty, Elizabeth Taylor, Yves Saint-Laurent and Mohamed al-Fayed.[4]

After the death of her husband Sir Warwick in 1987, Fairfax continued to live in the family home, Fairwater, which had been owned by the Fairfax family since 1900.[5]

Honours, wealth and philanthropy[edit]

In recognition of her service to the community, in 1976 Lady Mary Fairfax was appointed an Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE);[6] and in 1988 appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).[7] In 2005 Lady Fairfax was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to the community of wide ranging social and economic benefit through support and philanthropy for ongoing medical research initiatives, improved health care opportunities, nurturing artistic talent in young performers, and preservation of diverse cultural heritage.[8]

Fairfax's personal wealth in 2012 was estimated by the BRW at A$418 million.[9] Her assets include the residential land development, Harrington Park, near Camden in New South Wales. Harrington Park was the name of the cattle property once owned by Sir Warwick and Lady Fairfax.

Lady Fairfax has been Chairman, Founder and President of the Friends of The Australian Ballet and was the president of the Australian Opera Foundation during the 1970s.[10] Her philanthropy includes gifts of A$750,000 to St Vincent's Foundation and A$250,000 to the Garvan Foundation in 2002 on the occasion of her eightieth birthday.[11]


  1. ^ "Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney (P.L.C Sydney)". New South Wales. School Choice. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2007. 
  2. ^ Pearce, Suzannah, ed. (17 November 2006). "FAIRFAX (Mary), Lady". Who's Who in Australia Live!. North Melbourne, Vic: Crown Content Pty Ltd. 
  3. ^ The lady who's still giving her all Lawson, Valerie Sydney Morning Herald 15 August 2002 accessed 16 May 2012
  4. ^ Anderson, Anna (10 April 2013). "Lady Fairfax's New York penthouse shoots for record". Domain. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "Fairwater - Full Lep Listing - Description In Further Comments". State Heritage Register. Government of New South Wales. 1999. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "Search Australian Honours - Simple Search: FAIRFAX Mary; Officer of the Order of the British Empire". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 1 January 1976. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "Search Australian Honours - Simple Search: FAIRFAX Mary; Member of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 13 June 1988. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "Search Australian Honours - Simple Search: FAIRFAX Mary; Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Australian Government. 26 January 2005. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  9. ^ Sadauskas, Andrew (13 May 2012). "The world's richest mothers". Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Lady Mary Fairfax (18 October 1973). "An interview with Lady Mary Fairfax (1973)". Splash (Interview: audio/transcript). Interview with unnamed interviewer. ABC Radio National. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Lawson, Valerie (15 August 2002). "The lady who's still giving her all at 80". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 March 2016.