Wednesday, 1 September 2010

RHSV Lecture - The Many Lives of Kenneth Meyer

Date: Tuesday 14 September
Time: 5.15 tea/coffee. Lecture 5.45
Place: Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne
Cost: Members Free - Non-members $5.50
Speaker: Sue Ebury

When Kenneth Baillieu Myer’s father fell dead on the footpath in 1934, Ken’s life changed in an instant. As the eldest son of the Jewish immigrant retailing genius, Sidney Baevski Myer, who went from pedlar to philanthropist millionaire in fifteen years, 13-year-old Ken was immediately acknowledged as head of the family.

Despite a conventional education at Geelong Grammar and a year at Princeton University, Ken was an unconventional man. He had hit headlines when he was born and continued to make news throughout his life-as the powerful Executive Chairman of Myer; in his refusal to be Governor-General of Australia; with his separation and divorce from his wife Prue and remarriage to a Japanese woman half his age, Yasuko Hiraoka; as Chairman of the Victorian Arts Centre and the National Library of Australia; and during his disastrous years as Chairman of the ABC-a reward for signing the 'Myer It’s time' letter, acknowledged by Whitlam as influential in bringing the Labor Party to power in 1972.

Ken Myer introduced Australia to the first regional shopping centres, with Chadstone changing the face of the Australian landscape. Parking meters, state of the art information systems at the National Library of Australia, ground-breaking medical research at The Howard Florey Institute and genetic engineering at CSIRO were all facilitated by him.

With unprecedented access to family documents, Sue Ebury paints a vivid portrait of the many aspects of Ken Myer’s life, and the man himself.

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