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 Philip (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, USANZ 2023 ASM Convenor
The 2023 Harry Harris Oration was recorded and is available to watch online below.