Court is adjourned but no ‘retirement’ for former judge
STEPPING out of judicial robes has freed Margaret McMurdo AC to apply her substantial persuasive skills to several important leadership roles.
It has also given her the opportunity to spread her creative wings, developing previously hidden passions into enjoyable outcomes.
Mrs McMurdo's four children wondered if she would cope with going from a high-profile and extremely busy life, to retirement. She has shown them otherwise. "I am able to use the skills of my prior life in the things I am now doing in the private sector," Mrs McMurdo said.
The former president of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, judge of the Children's Court of Queensland, judge of the District Court of Queensland along many other leading legal roles, theoretically retired from active work 12 months ago. But, at 63, Mrs McMurdo is just as busy and engaged in important community work now as she was during her time on the bench.
Currently under her guidance is the $88 million Queensland Community Foundation charitable trust which gives out millions of dollars each year since it was established in 1997. The low-profile charity raises funds for community projects.
Mrs McMurdo also holds several other volunteer roles. She is working with the Australia Institute, alongside a number of retired judges and leading academics, on promoting a national integrity commission. "In essence, (it's) a federal ICAC to look at integrity and stop corruption at federal level," Mrs McMurdo said. "I could never have done that when I was a judge because it is entering into the semi-political sphere and crossing the boundary from the judicial arm of government into the executive."
She also chairs Queensland's Legal Aid Commission. "It's a very important organisation; an essential element of the justice system in Queensland," she said. "They do an amazing job on limited funds."
With the formality of court and being constantly in the public eye behind her, Mrs McMurdo is finally enjoying lots of "nice things". Spending relaxed time with her grown-up family and friends is at the top of her retirement list.
"I do French every Friday morning at Alliance Francaise in Brisbane," she said. "I have done a creative writing course and I am hoping to do a bit more creative writing, but I am finding it very hard to be disciplined to fit it in.
"I am thinking creative non-fiction." It might be sometime before Mrs McMurdo commits to regular writing sessions, but at least she has in mind what the first book will be about.
Her children's retirement present of oil painting lessons has turned into a keen interest.
She has fitted some overseas travel which included cycling in France and bought a Magimix because she wants to perfect a soufflé. "I am having fun with that," she said.
Learning the guitar is on her to-do list, as well as quilting. "I have all these projects which I put aside for when I had more time in my life which I am still trying to find," Mrs McMurdo added.
Participating in community activities and spending time with like-minded people is an important part of Mrs McMurdo's retirement plan. She now has time, after 35 years of membership, to be active in the Zonta club in Brisbane.
Mrs McMurdo stays on top of her volunteer commitments and enjoys her creative pursuits because she sticks to a regular fitness routine which includes jogging, swimming, walking, yoga and pilates. "Health is everything when you are ageing," she said. "I think you age much more positively if you are fit and well."
She recognises that the cycle of life may be what forces her to move away from the organisations that she is currently committed to, but in the meantime the elegant, highly intelligent and talented Mrs McMurdo is giving them the best of her community-minded skills and energy.