2022 / Peter Hutton

Peter is a maverick, a free radical, a challenger of the status quo. Co-founder of the Future Schools – a global collaboration of innovators aligned to transform the future of education – Peter was the 2022 Orator, exploring the topic, “Australian Education: How did we get here and where are we going?”

2021 / Macinley Butson

Macinley Butson, inventor, award winner, role model, speaker and student presented the 2021 George Kerferd Oration, speaking about “Curiosity, where it all begins.”

2020 / Cathy McGowan AO

Former independent Member for Indi, academic and rural consultant, Cathy McGowan AO, delivered the 2020 George Briscoe Kerferd Oration via livestream, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oration Chair, Karenne Thistleton, said she was delighted that Ms McGowan had agreed to deliver the Oration.

“In 2006, Cathy delivered a very successful Oration which showed that communities could enrich their communities through strong community engagement and participation. In 2020, she will consider ‘the Australia we want’, with a focus on the engagement of young people across Indigo Shire in the lead up to the Oration”.

2019 / Ailsa Piper

“Go out to find the unseen. What is something you might see today, that you didn’t see yesterday?”

The 2019 Kerferd Oration was delivered by writer, director, performer – and dedicated walker – Ailsa Piper. Ailsa spoke on the theme, “Still, Life…Discovering solace in the beauty of every day.”

2018 / Senator Malarndirri McCarthy

When we talk about our future we must not make the same mistakes of the past and ensure that we do not leave anyone behind.

Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy delivered the 2018 Kerferd Oration, encouraging the audience to be bold and brave to develop a united vision for Australia. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is a Yanyuwa woman from the Gulf country in the Northern Territory. She first entered the public sphere as a journalist with the ABC and more recently for SBS/NITV.

2017 / Barry Irvin AM

‘The strength and wisdom of the collective has been demonstrated over and over again.’

The 2017 Oration was delivered by Barry Irvin AM, the Executive Chairman of Bega Cheese. Barry Irvin has extensive experience in the dairy industry and has been Chairman of Bega Cheese since 2000. Under his leadership Bega Cheese has grown from a small regionally based dairy company to one of the largest dairy companies in Australia, supplying a large range of dairy products in Australia and around the world.

2016 / Hugh Mackay AO

‘It’s about how we live, not where we live.’

Renowned author and leading chronicler of Australia life Hugh Mackay will deliver the annual Kerferd Oration in Beechworth this year. Hugh Mackay AO is a social researcher and the author of 16 books, including the 2013 bestseller, The Good Life, sub-titled What makes a life worth living?

2015 / Dr Simon Longstaff AO

If you saw something being done that was wrong, would you speak up or just mind your own business? Would you tell a friend the truth, even if you knew it would hurt them? How do you arrive at your decision?

These questions are all about ethics. And that was the theme of the 2015 Kerferd Oration in Beechworth, delivered by Dr Simon Longstaff AO, the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre, Sydney.

2014 / Ms Jenny Coles

‘The true value of a cappuccino is the manner in which it is shared’

The numbers of people throughout the world most negatively impacted by the disparities of resources and wealth continue to increase. We are more challenged than ever to find imaginative and robust ways forward when considering the plight of others. Through the prism of Timor-Leste, we see the positive power of the enduring friendships that exist between our nations’ peoples.

Jenny Coles, Australian Liaison Representative for Education for the Australian-born wife of Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister, Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmão, delivered the 2014 Kerferd Oration.

Ms Coles, who is also an activist and humanitarian, spoke of her experiences in Timor-Leste as she explored the role of Indigo Shire communities in supporting the development of this emerging nation.

2013 / Mr Bernie Geary OAM

‘Young people: a resource we need’

Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mr Bernie Geary OAM, delivered the 2013 Kerferd Oration.

Building on the discussions from the lead-in event, the oration explored the ways each person in the community could support young people. Young people are not simply raised by their community; they also raise their community up. Strong and healthy communities create opportunities for the young and not so young to collaborate and share their unique talents and abilities to support one another.

2012 / Dr Bill Wilson APM OAM and the Honourable Tim Fischer AC

‘Sir Isaac Isaacs: Exploring his 47-year connection to Indigo Shire and lessons today from this national legend’

From Yackandandah to Yarralumla — Australia’s first Australian-born Governor-General was educated in Yackandandah and Beechworth, later representing the region in State and Federal politics before being appointed to the High Court of Australia. He was appointed Governor-General in 1931 where his sense of social justice truly came to the fore.

2011 / Honourable Justice David Harper

‘Sentencing: public perceptions, the reality and their social consequences’

The simplistic approach says the courts should be more punitive in sentencing. But the reality is more complex. The protection of the community requires us to pay attention to sentencing and rehabilitation for the long-term benefit of the community and offenders.

2010 / Ms Jemima Richards

‘Revealing the hidden strengths and talents of community’

As a foundation member of the support group Firefoxes, Jemima Richards had an instrumental role to play in helping Kinglake residents rebuild their lives after Black Saturday bushfires. Her experiences immediately after the fires and later carry valuable lessons for our own community strengthening efforts.

2009 / Reverend Tim Costello AO

‘Community values for a world in need’

Many of Victoria’s community values have been forged in the intensity of fire and concentrated through drought. These values derive from a wellspring of compassion — the richness of seeing others prosper and grow, and celebrating their worth. And these qualities can be part of the solution for the most intractable problems facing the global community, including poverty and climate change.

2008 / Professor Tim Flannery

‘The climate change challenge’

Against the background of growing community acknowledgement of and concern about the effects of rapid climate change on our planet, a discourse on the science of climate change, including the health of the planet’s essential organs, the challenges facing individuals, communities and governments, and how we can better manage the planet’s limited resources for the purpose of sustaining life on Earth.

2007 / Honourable John Thwaites MP

‘Climate change and social justice’

A timely consideration of the water and environmental challenges facing Victoria as a result of climate change and the need to ensure the longterm sustainability of Victorian communities.

2006 / Ms Cathy McGowan AO

‘Beechworth: our common wealth?’

Using Beechworth as a model, an expose of Cathy’s vision for creating an environment in rural Australia for everyone to contribute to their communities in vibrant, caring and personally rewarding ways.

2005 / Professor Henry Brodaty AO

‘Ageing: it’s all in your mind’

An exploration of the challenges facing ageing Australian communities in view of greater life expectancy and an increasing incidence of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

2004 / Ms Barbara Holborow OAM

‘Everyone’s children’

A consideration of the need to reform the children’s justice system to further the social justice interests of children in our communities and for everyone in every community to take greater responsibility for each child in the community.

2003 / Honourable Justice John Harber Phillips AC

‘The North Eastern Victoria republic movement — myth or reality?’

A study of the historical evidence of a groundswell of republican sentiment in north eastern Victoria during the Kelly Gang era, and the pivotal role played by the Kelly Gang.