A decade of Kerferd Orations 2003-2012

The George Briscoe Kerferd Oration was inaugurated in 2003 by the citizens of Beechworth to commemorate the sesquicentenary of the naming of their town.

The purpose of the Kerferd Oration is to promote a culture of community discussion through sharing knowledge. The Oration brings to local people an emerging issue presented by an eminent speaker within the context of social justice in rural areas.

The first Oration and today’s 10th Oration are wonderfully pertinent. In 2003 the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Hon John Harber Phillips AC, presented the North Eastern Victoria Republic Movement – Myth or Reality? This was a criminal lawyer’s dissection of the evidence associated with the mission of Ned Kelly.

In 2012 two Orators will present evidence of local research about Sir Isaac Isaacs. Dr Bill Wilson APM OAM will answer the question: Did you know Australia’s first Australian-born Governor-General had a 47-year connection to Indigo Shire? And the Hon Tim Fischer AC will answer the question: What can we learn today from this national legend?

Local history bookends the first and the 10th Orations. In between, the subjects covered were children, particularly as victims of crime; ageing especially the incidence of dementia and care services in rural areas; the common wealth of the Beechworth community; climate change and social justice; climate change and sustainability; community values, community strengths in emergencies; and sentencing policies – perceptions, reality and their social implications. (For more details see the Kerferd Oration Honour Roll on the back page).

As the Oration matured due to community support, so started lead-in events from 2006. Lead-in events explore different aspects of the subject from a local perspective and provide preparatory learning ahead of the Oration. Arising from both lead-in events and Orations has come enduring community initiatives. First came the formation in 2008 of the Beechworth Sustainability Group, now merged with Beechworth Landcare to form Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability. Then in 2010, the Indigo University of the Third Age was formed and in 2011, Indigo Fireflies – women supporting response and recovery efforts following a crisis or trauma.

This year’s lead-in events are spread across three Indigo towns, reflecting the fact that the Isaacs story is an Indigo Shire story. The events comprised:

  • June 14: Yackandandah Museum hosted Monash University’s Dr Simon Smith speaking about The Governor-General, the entertainer and a tale of two vexatious litigants.
  • July 15: Yackandandah resident Colin Barnard led a town walk – In the steps of Isaac Isaacs.
  • Yackandandah Museum: permanent exhibition on Sir Isaac Isaacs.
  • Chiltern Athenaeum: memorabilia of Isaacs’ connection to Chiltern in the hey days of big company goldmines.
  • Beechworth Historic Courthouse: Sir Isaac Isaacs – A Man of Contradictions, an exhibition opened on Saturday 28 July 2012 by Isaacs’ great grandson Tim Cohen and running until 31 August.

These lead-in events follow a most innovative series in 2011 that came about due to the co-operation and leadership received from the Beechworth Correctional Centre. Prisoners were involved with the whole program from speaking about the personal impacts of sentencing, their community work, helping to set up the Oration venue, and with Beechworth Red Cross providing the community lunch. This truly was community discussion, engagement and sharing of knowledge.

The Kerferd Oration is organised by the community for the community. The Kerferd Oration Committee is now a sub-committee of the Beechworth Neighbourhood Centre aligning the objects of ‘learn local’ and community development.

Sponsors are integral to our success. We acknowledge the commitment since 2003 of La Trobe University and Indigo Shire Council. Past corporate sponsors were Telstra Countrywide and Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co. Ltd, and since 2007, WAW Credit Union.

Thank you for your interest and support. With the help of the community the Kerferd Oration will continue in strength in Beechworth.

Joan Simms OAM
Chair, Kerferd Oration Committee
Sunday 29 July 2012