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Stack of tapes on a shelf with handwritten labels. Each is a 'Geelong lecture' recording from various dates in 1986.

October 27, 2021

Your window to the world: The unique value of audiovisual archives

Did you know that October 27 is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage? UNESCO created the day to ‘raise general awareness of the need to take urgent measures and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents.’

Audiovisual records have a special power to transcend the limitations of time and place. As voices from the past, they are especially powerful. In Deakin’s archives, audiovisual recordings of former staff and students come alive and often defy our expectations.

One av collection currently being catalogued are recordings of public lectures hosted by Deakin on matters of public interest, including a series known as the Geelong Lectures.

The Geelong Lectures

The Geelong Lectures were established in 1979 with the broad aim of bringing speakers of national and international standing to Geelong to talk about issues of interest to the community.

The events were well attended suggesting a thirst for knowledge and intellectual discussion. The lectures also provided an effective link between the recently established Deakin University and the Geelong community.

Black and white image of two men smiling. One is holding a tshirt that reads, 'Uranium? No thanks'.

Terry Price (left), Secretary General of The Uranium Institute argued the benefits of nuclear energy at the 1979 Geelong Lecture. Deakin VC Professor Fred Jevons (right) choice of tshirt suggests he may not be convinced.

The lectures were held annually until 1988 and typically three speakers would focus on a theme, covering topics such as the uranium debate, science and social change, ecology and politics, journalism, law, the creative design process.

Speakers included Rt. Hon. Sir Zelman Cowen, the Hon Mr Justice Kirby, Prof. David Penington, Inge King, Colin Madigan and Senator Susan Ryan.

Recordings of all Geelong lectures have recently been located, catalogued and digitised, and are available for access through Deakin’s archives.

Black and white image of a man and a woman standing in front a brick wall.

Sculptor Inge king and architect Colin Madigan presented the 1987 Geelong Lecture on ‘The Creative design process’. Here Inge King is pictured with Head of Architecture Daryl Le Grew.

A ‘taped talk’

A forerunner to the Geelong Lectures occurred in 1977, with public lectures given by Sir Walter Perry, Vice Chancellor of the Open University in the UK and Professor Steven Rose also from the Open University. During this visit Sir Walter contributed to the planning and operation of Deakin’s off-campus program. Sir Walter Perry would later jointly receive Deakin’s first honorary degree in May 1981.

An audio recording of the event was recently found in the archives, untitled and dated 1977. A search of Currency Deakin’s staff magazine completed the story with an article which modestly referred to the lectures as ‘taped talks’.

Listen to the recording below:

Unfortunately, the recording found only contains the second part of the event, Professor Steven Rose’s contribution. His topic was reductionist theories of science and how these could be used to justify ‘dehumanising’ programs by institutions and government. Currency referred to it as ‘a different form of lecture – one which would have been banned by the ABC and gained a R rating’. Currency goes on to say, ‘The almost 80 people at the lecture enjoyed it immensely and question time was halted about two hours after the lecture began.’

The lecture is a deeply considered examination of its topic, current in its thinking – and not particularly R-rated.

It is also interesting to hear the introductions by Deakin’s first Vice Chancellor Prof. Fred Jevons. The recordings reveal a man of great charm and humour – such qualities that are often hard to identify in the written word.

These av recordings are transportive. Their immediacy enables an almost instant connection with the past.

They also remind us of the unique role of audiovisual archives and the need for it to be safeguarded, preserved, and protected as part of our world heritage.

Want to learn more about Deakin’s history? Visit our recently redesigned History of Deakin site. 

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