On Saturday April 22 Rhodes Scholarships in Australia (RSA) hosted the fourth National Dinner at Queen’s Hall, Parliament House Melbourne. The night was a terrific success. Almost 100 guests from across Australia came together for a spirited reunion, and a lively celebration the 40th Anniversary of Rhodes Women. While most attendees were Australian, the group included Scholars from Canada, Bermuda, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. Guests spanned an impressive range of generations too – there were Scholars from as early as 1951, all the way through to the nine Scholars-Elect for 2017. While the evening featured two main speakers, it also showcased six other female Scholars who all did a wonderful job of welcoming the guests, introducing and thanking the central speakers, and infusing the evening with liveliness and humour.
Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau AC was the first speaker. As Victoria’s first female Governor, she offered a unique perspective on women pushing boundaries and the importance of always seeking greater diversity. Perhaps her most memorable remarks were those related to her experiences as Chairperson of the Victorian Selection Committee. She made insightful observations about the huge potential of the young people who win the Scholarships – and those who do not.
Lissa Muscatine (California & Wadham 1977) was the RSA’s first international guest and the keynote speaker. She gave an excellent speech. Lissa began with a reflection on her experience in Oxford as one of the first female Scholars in 1977, before moving on to her time as Hillary Clinton’s speechwriter and her sobering analysis of the political landscape in the US under President Trump. At times humourous and light, hers was a thought-provoking and serious assessment of ‘post-truth’ America in 2017. RSA was extremely appreciative of Lissa’s substantive address. She also furthered the work of RSA and the Trust more generally by participating in an outreach session for potential Scholarship applicants, as well as appearing on national television, radio and in two major newspapers highlighting the 40th Anniversary of Rhodes Women.
Lastly, RSA Chairman Mr Tim Orton (Australia-at-Large & Magdalen 1986) closed the evening by encouraging the assembled guests to think about the Scholarship’s ‘relevance, resilience, and restlessness for the future’. He noted the significance of the 40th Anniversary of Rhodes women, but also urged guests to think hard about what other groups are still excluded. If Australia doesn’t agitate for Scholarships in its own region, for instance, who else will, he argued. In addition to calling for the Scholarship’s further expansion, he thanked the guests for their financial support, and encouraged them to give to the Annual Fund.
RSA will continue the tradition of bringing Scholars together in the coming years. The National Dinner is a fantastic annual gathering that thickens Scholars’ ties to each other and provides a unique forum for Scholar interaction and new ideas.