The Wesson Lecture Series


At a 2015 Committee meeting of the Mechanics’ Institute of Victoria it was resolved to establish an annual lecture in conjunction with the Association’s Annual General Meeting. The name of Alf Wesson was advanced as a person who did much early valuable work to document and photograph Institutes during his decade with the Council of Adult Education from 1962-72. This idea was submitted to the Wesson family and we are delighted in their agreement to have the lecture so named.


MIV is now nearing its second decade and we are reminded of the sentiments of Professor John Bishop of the University of Adelaide’s, Department of Music in words he wrote at the conclusion of the first the Adelaide Festival in 1960.


“Something has been born that will live… this thing will go on…

But it is important to keep up the standards. It is important too, to stir people up.’


Professor Bishop was the inaugural Festival Artistic Director. He was no wilting violet and neither was Alf Wesson. Neckties were not his forte and he spoke freely on issues connected with non-formal adult education. He also categorised Mechanics’ Institutes into three categories: Chapel Cheapies, Goldfields Glorious or Bush Classics. Alf was a polymath and the sort of person who would frequent an Institute.


The 3nd Annual Wesson Lecture


The 3rd Annual Wesson Lecture will take place on Saturday 23 September 2017. The speaker will be Kate Torney, CEO, State Library Victoria.


The 2nd Annual Wesson Lecture


In Search of the Mechanics'

Gideon Haigh


Gideon Haigh has had a long and varied career as a journalist, author and commentator on public and business affairs, albeit with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things cricket. He is the author of over thirty books.


On a visit to Carlton’s most notable bookshop early this year, Gideon saw a copy of Pam Baragwanath and Ken James’ These Walls Speak Volumes: A History of Mechanics’ Institutes in Victoria. A cursory thumb through the massive tome saw him wanting to learn more of this Victorian phenomenon. And so started Gideon Haigh’s Search for the Mechanics’ by way of visit to see the extant buildings and to interview the modern Mechanics’ who have inherited and nurture the huge legacy which the pioneers have left the Victorian community.


In Search of the Mechanics’ is Gideon Haigh’s adventure which led up to the story which appeared in the Australian Review Supplement on 30 July 2016.


The Inaugural Wesson Lecture


How We Achieved Victorian Grass Roots Culture

Professor Weston Bate OAM


We were honoured to have Professor Weston Bate OAM deliver the inaugural Wesson Lecture following MIV's Annual General Meeting on 14 November 2015. Professor Bate has given long public service to the State of Victoria firstly by wartime service with the Royal Air Force as a Lancaster pilot in Britain, then in education and since ‘retirement’ has worked tirelessly to lift the profile local history in the Victorian community and also to Government. Professor Bate authored the local history ‘model’ History of Brighton in 1963, the two volume Ballarat history Lucky City and Life after Gold. Known widely for his research craft he also wrote the highly entertaining Essential but Unplanned: the story of Melbourne’s lanes (1994).  A summary of the talk was written up in UK39.





Gideon Haigh

Professor Weston Bate OAM and his wife Janice



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