Centenary sculpture unveiling speech - Dr Mark Lawrie
Professors Hinchcliff, Doug Blood, Ken Jubb and Ivan Caple, Dr and Mrs Sloss, distinguished guests.
Congratulations to the University of Melbourne's School of Veterinary Science on your centenary. Thank you for the invitation to address you and to unveil this beautiful and symbolic work of art on this glorious day. It’s an honour to be here, and a great honour for the Australian Veterinary Association to participate in this important occasion.
It has been wonderful to meet and talk to Val. He was just giving final instructions to the artist, Peter, that perhaps he needed the final touch of a smearing cow manure on the stature to add authenticity!
New Life. It’s an apt theme for all that the veterinary school and the veterinary profession represent.
Dr Val Sloss came from a distant land to start a new life in this country. His new start was a beginning for others in a veterinary school undergoing its rebirth. He assisted in the delivery of fledgling vets who went on to become part of the growing veterinary profession in Australia. How appropriate he is the model for this work of art soon to be revealed.
Today, many students come from distant lands, from Asia, from the Americas and from Europe to study here, just as Val came those many years ago. They come as international students to begin the journey to their new life as veterinarians to this place where Val came from afar to train our country’s youth. It is ironic and yet typical of the spirit of Australia that we love.
Today, our country’s veterinary education system and the graduates it produces are in the cream of the world’s veterinary crop. This is typified by the school here at Melbourne which has accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Its graduates are recognised and eagerly accepted in North America and indeed worldwide.
We are truly blessed to have a veterinary education. We learn the complex interactions of living things, of the animals that we care for and treat. We study much from ruminant nutrition to reproduction. We learn the life of the country – of farms, of pastures and our unique and amazing wildlife. We study the animals we now call our companions and the impact they have on our human hearts.
We are blessed to play a role in bringing new life to this world, through the birth of its animals. And we are blessed with the task of sustaining that life, enhancing the lives of both humans and animals.
"New Life" is a still life, not a living thing but symbolic of life in many ways, and yet it will be here in another 50 years, another 100 years when all of us standing here are gone.
The metal of this image was made malleable and was purified by the heat of the furnace and the molten metal moulded to the shape of the cast. Through the pressures of study and the discipline of practice students were shaped by Val and others into vets and Australia’s modern veterinary profession was forged.
The profession is not without its challenges. The rigors of study and the trials of adjusting to a demanding though marvellous profession are the first of many we face. We are confronted by those who question whether we should have animals for food, or fibre, or even friendship. The answer is most certainly yes. In a world where food will become scarcer, we need animal protein. In a world where all fabrics have their environmental impacts, we need sustainable fibres like wool. And in a world where animals play an increasingly important role in the mental and physical health of our communities, we need animals and we need vets.
Today is a great day to celebrate the New Life brought to the world by veterinarians trained here over the last hundred years, and to look forward to a hopeful and positive future for the whole profession in this country. We have important work to do. With veterinary graduates that are among the cream of the world’s crop, I am confident that we will continue to make a difference to the world, finding new solutions to the problems of disease and food security through veterinarians past, present and pending.