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2023 Harry Harris Oration | Remembering Christchurch

12:51PM on the 22nd February 2011 is a day that will live forever in the memories of the people of Christchurch. The day that a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, devastating the city centre and its surrounds, and killing 185 people from 20 different countries. Twelve years later, the City still bears the scars, and the people of Canterbury live with the memory every day.

This day will also live forever in the memories of the 800 delegates attending the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand (USANZ), who found themselves right in the chaos and danger of this deadly disaster as they attended the opening day of the 2011 Meeting. Within metres of the Christchurch Convention Centre, death and destruction lay all around as delegates staggered out into the fractured streets of the city, shocked and terrified as they stepped through the liquefied earth oozing through the erupted landscape. Thankfully, remarkably, and by pure good fortune, not a single delegate was killed or seriously injured.

The 2011 Christchurch Earthquake will forever have a treasured place in the history of urology in New Zealand and Australia. In May that year the USANZ Board of Directors resolved to introduce the Christchurch Medal to recognise urologists who demonstrated outstanding acts for the benefit of others following the earthquake. The medal now recognises bravery in hazardous circumstances or exceptional community service through humanitarian endeavours. The four inaugural recipients of the Christchurch Medal were Urologists Dr Stephen Mark (Christchurch), Dr Lydia Johns-Putra (Ballarat), Dr Stuart Phillip (Brisbane), and Dr Julian Shah (London). These four individuals were recognised for acts of extraordinary bravery in the rubble of Christchurch, risking their own lives to help victims in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

The COVID pandemic meant that we did not get to commemorate the Ten Year Anniversary of the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake at our annual ASM. Instead, this year we dedicate this very special Harry Harris Oration to the memory of all those who were lost in the Christchurch Earthquake, and to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand. The four inaugural Christchurch Medallists will together deliver the Harry Harris Oration, transporting us back to the events of that fateful day, and reflecting on what it means today. For those of us who were there, this will be a very emotional and sombre occasion; for those who were not, this will be a chance to understand why this event is such an important event in the history of our community. We are confident that Dr Samuel Henry (Harry) Harris (1887-1936), one of the founding fathers of our Society, would very much approve of this oration delivered in his name.

Professor Declan Murphy, Convenor

About the Harry Harris Oration

The Harry Harris Oration was established in honour of the Society’s founder, Samuel Henry Harris (1881 – 1936), and is usually, but not necessarily, made by a non-urologist. Harry Harris was born and educated in Sydney and after graduation as Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery in 1906 he spent a year as resident medical officer at Sydney Hospital. Harris then went into general practice in the Sydney suburb of Enmore. In 1914 Harry Harris was appointed Honorary Urologist to the new department of urology at Lewisham Hospital, Sydney.

Harris came to urology via gynaecology and he was the first full-time specialist urologist in Australasia and he was also the first Australasian urologist to achieve an international reputation for his work.

In 1928, he first published results of his suprapubic prostatectomy with complete closure. Harris’ mortality rate for his own operation was 2.8 per cent, the lowest at the time, and for many years afterwards, for any method of open prostatectomy. Harris was a pioneer in the speciality of urology and a vital figure in the events leading to the formation of the Urological Society of Australasia. He published thirty-seven papers on urology and was on the editorial boards of not only the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Surgery but also the British Journal of Surgery. He was a foundation fellow of the RACS, a member of the International Society of Urology and would have been foundation president of the Urological Society of Australasia if he had not died in December 1936. The inaugural meeting of the Society took place the following month.

The inaugural Harry Harris Oration was delivered in 1969 by Professor M Ewing, the then Professor of Surgery of Melbourne, and was titled “A Place in Prosperity”.

Samuel Henry (Harry) Harris

Past Harry Harris Orators include

2022 – Lisa Curry AO
2019 – Dr Richard Harris OAM, Anaesthetist and 2018 Thai Cave rescue diver
2018 – Prof Peter Doherty AC, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1996, Australian of the Year 1997
2017 – Elizabeth Cosson AM, Deputy Secretary, Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
2016 – Dr Mukesh Haikerwal AO, Chair AIHW
2015 – Prof Corey Bradshaw, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change
2014 – Prof Ian Frazer AC, co-inventor of HPV vaccine, Australian of the Year 2006
2013 – Moira Kelly AO, Humanitarian
2012 – Warren Mundine AO, Chairman, Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce
2011 – Sir Ray Avery, New Zealander of the Year 2010, scientist, inventor and philanthropist
2010 – Admiral Christopher Barrie AC RANR Chief of the Defence Force 1998-2002