To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sir Zelman Cowen, Victoria University is holding a series of events throughout 2019.

Read more about the events and subscribe to find out more.

Touring Exhibition : A Life of Opportunity and Success (15 May to 31 October)

A Life of Opportunity and Success takes a look at Sir Zelman’s journey from young law student to the Australian statesmen and public intellectual we remember him as today.

The exhibition includes artefacts, personal memorabilia and an interactive timeline with photographs and films.

The exhibition will first tour campuses of Victoria University from May to early August, before its official launch on 13 August 2019 by the Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency the Honorable Linda Dessau AC, at the Jewish Museum of Australia.

Dates and venues:

  • 15 May – 14 June: Victoria University, City Queen Campus, Law Library
  • 17 June – 19 July: Victoria University, Footscray Park Campus, Library
  • 22 July – 6 August:  MetroWest Gallery, Footscray
  • 8 August – 25 August: Jewish Museum of Australia
  • 13 August: Jewish Museum of Australia – Launch by Her Excellency the Honorable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria
  • 29 August – 31 August: Victoria University, City Flinders Campus, Level 12 (part of the Sir Zelman Cowen oration & symposium)
  • 2 September – 30 September: Victoria University, City Flinders Campus
  • 1 October – 31 October: The Supreme Court Library

Sir Zelman Cowen, 2000 by Wes Walters. Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.

"Time capsule" documentary

Beyond his own career, Sir Zelman inspired many of Australia’s leaders. This short documentary captures memories and reflections of notable Australians connected with Sir Zelman in his various roles as teacher, scholar, university leader and public intellectual.

The documentary will be screened at all events in the Centenary program. Some of the interviews also form part of the touring exhibition.

Interviews include:

  • Lady Anna Cowen AM
  • Her Excellency The Hon Linda Dessau AC
  • The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG
  • The Hon Marcia Neave AO
  • George Hampel AM QC
  • Sir James Gobbo AC CVO KstJ QC
  • Emeritus Professor Harry Glasbeek
  • Steven Skala AO
  • Eve Mahlab AO
  • Professor Michael Crommelin AO
  • Yolanda Klempfner AO
  • Jack Fajgenbaum QC
  • Emeritus Professor Ron Taft AM
  • Emeritus Professor Joe Isaac AO
  • Adam Sher
  • Dr Don Markwell.

(Left to right): Lady Anna Cowen AC and Professor Peter Dawkins AO, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University.

Law and the Religious Lifecycle: Twilight Lecture Series (15 & 22 August 2019)

Join Rabbi Professor Daniel Sinclair for two lectures on the intersection between religion and the law. Presented in association with the Jewish Museum of Australia, these talks will encourage guests to consider how law and religion influence our life choices from birth to death.

All talks will take place in the Jewish Museum’s Sir Zelman Cowen Gallery while the touring exhibition is housed there.

Lecture details

Location: Sir Zelman Cowen Gallery, Jewish Museum of Australia,  26 Alma Road, St Kilda

Lecture one: The Beginning of Life: Halakhic Obligations and Reproductive Rights

Time and date: Thursday, 15 August, 7.30pm to 9pm

Summary: Reproductive rights in liberal 21st century democracies concerning surrogacy, egg donation and posthumous fertilization reflect both the fast pace of scientific developments and changing social attitudes. The talk deals with the possibility of combining these changes with traditional Jewish law.

Book here: Beginnings of Life

Lecture two: Decisions at the End of Life: Balancing Jewish Law and Democracy

Time and date: Thursday, 22 August, 7.30 to 9pm

Summary: Artificial life support, patient autonomy and the wishes of the family continue to pose challenges to the traditional halakhic position on the treatment of the terminally ill. The focus of this talk is on recent developments at the interface of Jewish and Israeli law in an attempt to synthesize both systems.

Book here: Decisions at the End of Life

 Image of Rabbi Professor Daniel Sinclair

Rabbi Professor Daniel Sinclair, speaking at the Faith-Based Governance and Dispute Resolution Conference in 2018.

Panel Discussion: The Future of Religious Arbitration Tribunals in Australia (19 August)

Culturally appropriate dispute resolution plays a vital role in a multicultural society. Faith-based mediation and arbitration mechanisms can offer a cheap, swift and authoritative community-led alternative to litigation.

How do we balance religious freedoms with the requirements of a secular legal system, and when should the courts step in?

Join us for an expert panel discussion of the implications of Ulman v Live Group Pty Ltd [2018] NSWCA 338.


  • The Hon Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC: Arbitrator and former Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, Member of the Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review (2018), and President, Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW
  • Rabbi Professor Daniel Sinclair: Visiting Professor of Law, Fordham University New York and Adjunct-Professor, Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, Victoria University
  • Rabbi Marcus Solomon SC: Barrister, Honorary Senior Rabbi of Dianella Shule – Mizrachi Perth and Governor, Carmel School
  • The Hon Justice Mark Weinberg AO QC: reserve judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal and former judge of the Federal Court of Australia.

Facilitated by the Hon Marcia Neave AO, former Justice of the Victorian Court of Appeal, Chair of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence and member of the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre Advisory Board.

Date & venue

6pm to 7.30pm, 19 August at Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, 295 Queen St, Melbourne (entry via Little Lonsdale St)


Register for the panel discussion by 12 August 2019.

 Image - Daniel Sinclair at Faith Based Governance Conference

Rabbi Professor Daniel Sinclair, speaking at the 2018 Faith Based Governance and Dispute Resolution Conference. 

Sir Zelman Cowen Centenary Oration: The Hon Josh Frydenberg (29 August)

Join us on Thursday 29 August for the Sir Zelman Cowen Centenary Oration, delivered by the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Federal Member for Kooyong, Treasurer of Australia and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, on 'The Age of Disruption'.

In this Oration, Minister Frydenberg will address the critical issue of how digital disruption is changing the nature of Australia’s society and economy, and how it is forcing governments to re-think their approaches and responses to these new winds of change.  

The oration builds on earlier presentations for us by Professor Richard Susskind OBE in 2016, Professor Dame Hazel Genn DBE QC (Hon) in 2017, and Beth Noveck in 2018.

This is a free public lecture.

Read more about the Oration.

Date & venue

6pm to 7.30pm, 29 August at Victoria University, 300 Flinders Street Melbourne, 3000

Image - photograph of Josh Frydenberg

The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP will deliver the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre's Fourth Annual Oration. 

The Role of Universities in the 2020s Symposium (30 August)

In his roles as academic and university leader Sir Zelman often considered the idea of the university.

Join senior academics and policymakers for a contemporary take on “The Role of Universities in the 2020s”. 

Further information and registration.

Date & venue

9.30am to 2.30pm, 30 August at Victoria University, 300 Flinders Street, Melbourne, 3000.


 Logo - Symposium on the Role of Universities in the 2020s, 30 August 2019, Melbourne, presented by the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, Victoria University and Mitchell Institute, Sponsored by KPM, Unilodge and UniSuper