Sir Zelman Cowen Centre (SZCC) is named in honour of distinguished Australian statesman scholar and jurist, the late Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC.

A public figure dedicated to higher education and the welfare of the nation, Sir Zelman’s life epitomises the spirit of Victoria University: his was a life of opportunity and success.

Victoria University (VU) was privileged to work closely with Sir Zelman from 1994 when he accepted the positions of Distinguished Visiting Professor and Chair of the Victoria University Foundation, and led the University's efforts in gaining philanthropic support for our students.

On retiring, he became VU’s Inaugural Patron and remained a staunch friend of the University.

Brief history

  • 1919: Born in St Kilda, Melbourne
  • 1940s: Studied law at Melbourne University, winning the Supreme Court Prize and a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, and subsequently winning the prestigious Vinerian Scholarship
  • 1945: Married Anna Wittner
  • 1951-1966: Professor of Public Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Melbourne
  • 1976: Knighted
  • 1977–1982: Governor-General of Australia
  • 1982-1990: Provost of Oriel College Oxford
  • 1983: Chairman of the UK Press Council
  • 1988: Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Oxford and Chairman of the UK Press Council

Sir Zelman passed away on 8 December 2011. In 2012 Lady Anna Cowen donated the books and journals from Sir Zelman Cowen’s Commonwealth Office Library to Victoria University.

View the Sir Zelman Cowen collection

In 2019, the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre at Victoria University held a series of events to celebrate the Centenary of Sir Zelman Cowen's birth. These events included the Centenary Exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Australia, the Sir Zelman Cowen Annual Oration by the Honorable Josh Frydenberg, a lecture series, and symposium The Role of Universities in the 2020s.

Portrait of Sir Zelman Cowen with (from left to right) the Hon. Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, John Gandel AO and Lady Cowen.