Academic Who Was Committed to Liberty

Wednesday, 23 October 2013
The Age has published my tribute to my beloved mother and my best friend
Dr Naomi Moldofsky
Died 25-7-2013

”All men are created equal; it’s what they’re equal to that counts.”
This plaque on Dr Naomi Moldofsky’s office door summed up her attitude to life.
A strong, courageous and positive woman, Naomi worked as a lecturer and then senior lecturer in economics at the University of Melbourne from 1969 to 1990. She was a passionate teacher and researcher who championed freedom of thought and action within the rule of law. As she would often quote: ”One person’s freedom ends where another’s nose begins.”
Naomi was privileged to discuss ideas with Nobel laureate Friedrich August Hayek and philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper, and was instrumental in bringing Hayek to Melbourne in 1976. Professor Milton Friedman supported her membership of the classical liberal Mont Pelerin Society, of which she became a life member.
Long-time colleague Dr Maurice Newman, the former ABC and Australian Stock Exchange chair, recalled their common belief in an open society and individual liberty. Naomi was only ”too aware of the dangers posed by centralised authority and conceited politicians”, he said. ”She opposed it always and everywhere … Her intellect and the rigour of her arguments meant she was a formidable opponent in a debate. That said, she was, no matter the provocation, unwaveringly courteous and polite …
”My abiding impression of Naomi Moldofsky is of a warm, gentle and understated person who was committed to scholarship. Her contribution to economic thought is of the highest order and her writings will endure the test of time.”
Centre for Independent Studies founder and president Greg Lindsay, of whom Naomi was one of the earliest supporters, agreed: ”Naomi was one of this country’s champions of liberty and we are all the better for her endeavours.”
Born in Tel Aviv, Naomi Gross was the oldest child of Berl Dov Gross and Chana Cytrynowski, who had left Poland for Palestine in the mid-1920s, and had a younger brother, Moshe.
Her father’s laundry in Jaffah was burned down during the Arab riots of the 1930s, leaving the family without an income. According to family lore, he had no option but to go to the harbour, where one ship was departing for South America and another for Australia. It was the eve of World War II and, fortunately, he chose the vessel heading for Melbourne, promising to send for his family as soon as he could.
It was several years before he re-established his own laundry and could afford to purchase even one ticket for Naomi to join him.
After matriculating from Taylors College, Naomi undertook a commerce degree at the University of Melbourne, before winning a research scholarship to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She then travelled through Europe to Montreal, Canada, where she met her future husband and businessman, Sydney Jona Moldofsky.
They were married in late 1958 and Naomi began an economic history master’s degree at McGill University, completing it just after daughter Shira was born. She then embarked on a part-time PhD focused on problems of economic development. Their second daughter, Leora, was born before Naomi completed her studies in 1968.
The family moved to London, before undertaking a voyage in 1969 on the (later infamous) Achille Lauro Italian cruise liner to visit family in Melbourne. While on board, Naomi received a job offer from Latrobe University, but subsequently accepted a position at her alma mater.
As an academic, Naomi found her calling. Her areas of interest and specialisation included micro economics, comparative economic systems and Marxian economics. Keen to imbue her students with a desire to think for themselves, she worked hard at preparing her lectures and would revise them year after year to incorporate her latest research findings.
Never one to rest on her laurels, she was constantly striving to improve. There was always a huge pile of academic books by her side, and if a thought came to her in the middle of the night, she would get up to write it down in one of her many notebooks.
A devoted mother and grandmother, Naomi always put her family first. She was a ray of sunshine who filled the house with passion, although in her later years she was tragically afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. Impeccably groomed, she maintained her independence for as long as possible, and with support continued living with dignity at home.
She taught her children to be humble and ethical, to stand up for their principles and to find an interest in life that would sustain them.
Naomi is survived by her two daughters, Shira Sebban and Leora Moldofsky, and grandchildren Raphael, Gabriel, Jonathan, Ariel and Emma.
Shira Sebban is a writer and editor, and daughter of Naomi Moldofsky.
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Author: Shira Sebban

I am a writer and editor, passionate about helping refugees and about exploring the challenges life throws at us through my writing. A former journalist, I previously worked in publishing and taught French to university students. I am a member of Supporting Asylum Seekers Sydney (SASS) and have also served on the board of my children’s school for the past 13 years, including three terms as vice-president. My work has appeared in online and print publications including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, Independent Australia, New Matilda, Eureka Street, Jewish Literary Journal, The Forward and Online Opinion. I can be contacted at

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