one woman in the world Kerry can't say no to, by Danielle
18th April 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald)
She greets the Prime Minister with a hug and has a
rose named after her. And she's the only woman Kerry
Packer can't say no to.
Sister Bernice Elphick needed money for a new project
at St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst, she would
often turn to Mr Packer.
and compellingly, she would outline her case and,
within minutes, the media magnate would be signing
Packer told The Sun-Herald that her husband had called
Sister Bernice "the greatest fund-raiser of all
would just say, 'Darling, I know you'll fix it,' "
Mrs Packer said.
because of the respect in which we all held her, we
knew she was not asking for any money that was not
in her 80s, the softly spoken Sister of Charity is
known to have raised millions of dollars for the hospital
over the years through the respect she commanded and
her quietly persuasive manner.
Bernice is being honoured today with the naming of
a new wing of the hospital's Xavier building.
Packer, former Governor-General Sir William Dean and
NSW Governor Marie Bashir will attend, and Prime Minister
John Howard has sent a congratulatory message lauding
her "generosity of spirit", leadership and
her 40-year association with St Vincent's, first as
the Mother Rectress and later as instigator of numerous
hospital projects, Sister Bernice attracted a "who's
who" of powerful people into her orbit - from
Neville Wran to Sir Frank Packer and former prime
ministers John Gorton, Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke.
Anthea Groves, a Sister of Charity on the campus,
said Sister Bernice was equally comfortable rubbing
shoulders with the political fraternity, the wealthy
or the poor.
didn't make much difference to her," Sister Anthea
said. "She knew how to get the best out of people."
Bernice helped establish the Garvan Institute in 1963,
and was the driving force behind the opening of the
St Vincent's Clinic in 1991, modelled on the Mayo
Clinic in the US.
oversaw the expansion of the hospital campus to include
the private hospital and the Victor Chang Cardiac
there was a suggestion that heart and lung transplants
be performed at Prince of Wales Hospital, Sister Bernice
calmly explained to then premier Neville Wran that
they should stay at St Vincent's.
usual, she won the day.
Vincent's Clinic foundation president Ted Harris said
almost every development in the past 40 years had
"seen the hand of Sister Bernice". Even
after she retired in 1997, she still helped out at
the clinic with advice until 2002.
now lives in a retirement village run by the Our Lady
of the Sacred Heart order in Kensington.
would have made a great acquisition to any company
board. She had very sensible business acumen,"
Mr Harris said.
she was persuasive, it was in a "quiet, determined
way", he said. "She never lost her temper."
of her famous discretion, Sister Bernice became a
confidante of many of the rich and influential, including
the Packer family.
Packer said Sister Bernice had been a "very,
very important" part of the family for many years.
times of enormous strain, her clear blue eyes have
given us a sense of comfort," she said. "She
has always been there when we've needed her."
it came to fund-raising, it was her great charm and
singular faith that won over donors, Mrs Packer said.
what did Mr Packer have to say?
says it has been a great joy to know her - but that
it has not been inexpensive."
Sydney Morning Herald
& Broadcasting Limited
Vincent's health care links
richest man cleared of breaching media laws
Packer Biography (ABC