Monash honoured

Image of the Sir John Monash statue
Sir John is depicted in civilian clothes. He is standing on a concrete bridge, symbolic of his engineering career, and wearing a coat lapel to represent the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League badge.

Report Shaunnagh O’Loughlin
Photography Aasmund Heimark

The University’s namesake Sir John Monash said: “...equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community”. It is this ethos and generosity of spirit from the University’s alumni community that has seen Sir John honoured with a significant sculpture at the Monash Clayton campus.

This year marks 150 years since Sir John Monash was born in Melbourne. A civil engineer, soldier, and public administrator, Sir John was a man who used education to turn his natural talent into ability, allowing him to contribute to almost every level of Australian life. He has remained an important force at Monash University across its history.

A project to honour Sir John was initiated by The Monash Pioneers – an informal association of students and staff who were at Monash between 1961 and 1965. The group formed following a reunion in 2011 with a view to funding projects that would enhance the University’s heritage value.

Monash Pioneers chair Michael Headberry (BA 1977, DipEd 1977, GradDipMktg 1981) said the group felt the sculpture would be a good initial fundraising project, allowing them to give back to the University while enhancing the physical environment of the campus for current students, staff, alumni and the community.

“We wanted to celebrate Monash and honour its first students and staff. What better way to do this than to recognise Sir John whose life and accomplishments stand as an inspiration to all members of the University family?”

More than 220 alumni, friends and organisations got behind the idea, funding the project and enabling the Pioneers to commission renowned Australian sculptor Peter Corlett OAM. The brief: celebrate Sir John’s contribution to Australia as a scholar, engineer, lawyer, soldier, educator, businessman, patron of the arts, Rotarian and visionary.

The sculpture was officially unveiled in April 2015 by the then Governor of Victoria, the Hon. Dr Alex Chernov AC QC (HonLLD 2014) in front of 350 alumni and supporters.

“It was extremely satisfying to see the four-year project realised,” Mr Headberry said.

“What has resulted is everything we had hoped for. Peter has done an amazing job of capturing Sir John’s commanding personality and demeanour.

“The statue also received much acclaim from donors at the unveiling. I feel privileged that with their support the Pioneers were able to present the University and current and future generations with such a significant celebration of Sir John’s life and legacy.

“We hope our efforts will act as a catalyst for other generations of alumni to take on similar projects.”

Monash President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO said it was fitting to have a statue of Sir John Monash on campus so that students and visitors could appreciate that the University was named after a man who had an enormous impact on Australian life.

“Sir John’s contribution to Australia spanned many fields apart from his remarkable military achievements – an example for all of our students to aspire to,” Professor Gardner said.

“I would like to acknowledge the generosity of the organisations and individuals who donated to this project. Most of all, I would like to thank the group who drove this project – our Monash Pioneers.

“It is wonderful that our graduates continue to be so deeply engaged with the University.”