On Saturday, 16 May, the Second Rhodes Scholarships in Australia National Dinner was held at the State Library of Victoria in the presence of His Excellency The Honourable Alex Chernov QC AC, Governor of Victoria. The guest of honour and speaker for the evening was The Hon Bob Hawke AC (Western Australia & University 1953), former Prime Minister of Australia. The Warden of Rhodes House, Mr Charles Conn, also flew out from the Oxford especially for the occasion.
Attending the dinner were 103 Rhodes Scholars and guests from all over Australia. For the second year in a row, it was a memorable occasion, providing many of the scholars with the opportunity to hear from the Governor and Mr Hawke and to enjoy the beautiful Cowen Gallery at The State Library while re- connecting with their fellow alumni. The Board of Rhodes Scholarships in Australia (RSA) who hosted the event was, again, delighted with the evening and the range of alumni from all age groups and disciplines that attended.
RSA has developed a tradition of honouring the oldest and the youngest Scholars at the event. As well as the Prime Minister, other Australian Rhodes Scholars from the 1950’s in attendance were the former Governor, The Hon Sir James Gobbo AC KB QC (Victoria & Magdalen 1952), Professor John Poynter AO OBE (Victoria & Magdalen 1951), Professor James Wiley (New South Wales & University 1958) and Mr Jerry Ellis AO (Western Australia & Brasenose 1959). Seven Scholars-Elect were also in attendance.
The Hon Bob Hawke was in fine form as guest speaker and everyone enjoyed tales of his experience in the selection process and Oxford days and his words of advice and encouragement to young Scholars. In particular, his call for others to pursue a life of public service was a memorable part of his address.
The Warden, Mr Charles Conn, in his speech said that the Rhodes Trust is undergoing a period of rejuvenation with Scholars becoming responsible for the Trust’s governance and financial security for the first time in the history of the Scholarships. He talked about the Trust’s plans for deepening the Scholar experience through Leadership Development and its bid to increase the geographic reach of the Scholarships.
He also honoured Mr Graham Hutchinson AM (Victoria & Magdalen 1971), outgoing National Secretary who has, for many years, overseen the National Selection Process and welcomed Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington (Tasmania & Merton 1992) into the role as new National Secretary.
RSA believes that, in starting these National Dinners, they have found a very popular forum for Scholars to gather and to hear from eminent people with whom they share a special connection. They intend to hold the Australian national dinners regularly, rotated between Sydney and Melbourne.
We asked three of the Scholars-Elect for their impressions of the evening:
Amy Steinepreis (Western Australia & Merton 2015): "The 2015 National Dinner was an unforgettable night spent in great company. The high point, Bob Hawke's speech, thoroughly deserved the standing ovation it received. I so enjoyed meeting and conversing with Mr Hawke, the Rhodes Scholar of 1953 from my home state. I am sure the Scholars in my cohort will live by his timeless advice, at Oxford University and elsewhere, in the years to come."
Hamish McKenzie (Australia-at-Large & Green Templeton 2015): "As a newly elected scholar, I got a really strong sense that the Rhodes scholarship is not just a way to study at Oxford but is its own community. It seems like a tremendous way to enrich the value of the scholarship, by making it a commitment to lifelong learning and service, rather than a box to be ticked in your twenties".
Andrew Wheeler (Australia-at-Large 2015): "It was a terrific evening, and a tremendous privilege to meet so many inspiring members of the Australian Rhodes community. Mr Hawke’s speech was a particular highlight – full of humour and insightful advice. It was clear that the scholarship has had a transformative impact on the lives of those in the room and I’m incredibly excited for the opportunities that lie ahead."