Sir Murray Halberg (1933 – 2022)

BLAKE Medallist 2008

Founder, The Halberg Foundation.

Sir Murray Halberg was one of New Zealand’s most well-known sportspeople who, through the development and ongoing leadership of the Halberg Foundation, has dedicated the best part of his life to promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities in sport and active leisure.

Sir Murray had a stellar athletics career beating a number of world records. He competed at the Empire Games in Vancouver in 1954 and the Olympics in Melbourne in 1956 before winning a gold medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958. Later that same year he competed in Dublin and was the first New Zealander to run a mile in under four minutes. His greatest success came two years later when he was awarded gold for the 5000 metres at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. He also won the three miles at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth in 1962, and set world records in the two and three mile races.

In 1963, Sir Murray set up the Murray Halberg Trust for Crippled Children to encourage children with disabilities into sport and active leisure. The vision of the Trust, which was later renamed the Halberg Foundation, is for “…a society where all New Zealanders are given an equal opportunity to be involved in sport and recreation, and where we take pride in honouring sport excellence.” Sir Murray says the Trust was started “with a bunch of sporting mates” and its core principle to honour sporting excellence remains an underlying pillar today.

Sir Murray was an exemplar of great leadership for all New Zealanders. He has personally demonstrated courage in the face of his own disability suffered while playing rugby in his youth, and has demonstrated to all New Zealanders that participation in sport is not limited to those able bodied.

He was action-orientated, encouraged others to aspire to bigger and better things, displayed leadership beyond himself, and has successfully expanded people’s perspective about what constitutes fun.

Forever humble, he says that the key to successful leadership is working with good people.

His work in establishing the Halberg Foundation earned him an MBE in 1961, a knighthood in 1987 and an appointment to the Order of New Zealand.