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Boyer Lectures

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Tuning into ABC Radio National on a Sunday you may come across the Boyer Lectures. Your attention would be captured by the voices of prominent Australians disseminating, discussing and debating many a varied subject. Lectures have been presented by prime minsters, scientists, authors, high court justices and intellectuals and many, many more personalities. This program has created a vast body of intellectual thought, capturing for over the fifty years great insight into the minds of a diverse array of Australians.

Richard Boyer. Image courtesy of the ABC

The Boyer Lecture series commenced in 1959. Originally called the ABC Lectures, they were renamed in 1961 after the ABC Board chairman Richard Boyer, who had first suggested the lecture series. His vision for the lecture series consisted of the ABC Board inviting a prominent Australian to present their thoughts and ideas on major social, scientific or cultural issues through a series of six radio lectures. The lectures have stimulated thought, discussion and debate in Australia on an astonishing range of subjects - great minds examining issues and values.

Donald McDonald. Image courtesy of the ABC

Highlights of the Boyer lectures

To mark the ABC's 70th anniversary Chairman Donald McDonald edited The Boyer collection : highlights of the Boyer lectures 1959-2000. In this book, Donald brought together highlights from each Boyer lecture delivered since they first began in 1959. The Boyer Highlights for radio were devised when the 2003 presenter had to withdraw and McDonald was invited by Radio National to edit and present the program.

In the Boyer Highlights , McDonald presented a collection of lectures by theme: the law and human rights, a meaningful democracy, population, migration, social change, bioethics and medical research, aesthetics and culture and defining Australia, its history and identity.

Over the years speakers had included Justice Michael Kirby (The Judges), Bob Hawke (The Resolution of Conflict) , Dame Roma Mitchell (The Web of Criminal Law), Sir Gustav Nossal (Nature's Defence), Sir MacFarlane Burnet (Biology and the Appreciation of Life), Eva Cox (A Truly Civil Society) and David Malouf (A Spirit of Play – The Making of Australian Consciousness).

The Highlights provided an opportunity to revisit a wide selection of lectures. For McDonald, and no doubt the listener, to hear the presenters' voices again was an added bonus. On this note, some of the Boyer lectures are available in audio file, and the transcripts of the lectures from 1997 to the present are available at the ABC website.

Boyer Lectures 2013: Back to the grassroots

Dame Quentin Bryce AC, sworn in as Governor-General on 5 September 2008. Image courtesy of the Governor-General's Office.

The 2013 Boyer Lecture series was presented by Dame Quentin Bryce AC CVO, former Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Her Lecture series, ‘Back to the grassroots’, comprised four 30 minute lectures titled: Joining the neighbourhood: a personal story of equal rights advocacy; Watching the women: the powerful role of Australian women; Australians at their best: courage, compassion and resilience in everyday life; and Advance Australia Fair: looking to the future of Australian citizenship.

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Last updated: 8th October 2013

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