OUS Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

Welcome to the web pages of the Oxford University Society in ACT, Australia.

The Oxford University Society in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was founded in 1959 with a committee of four. Regular meetings have been held since 1959. Colin Steele is the current Secretary, a position he has held since 1977. The ACT President is currently Professor John White, who received an Oxford University Society Distinguished Friend Award in 2007. Membership is largely drawn from academia and the Commonwealth public service.
Currently there are two to three events held each year. Whether you are visiting temporarily, or a permanent Canberra resident, we encourage you to get in touch and come along. All are welcome.

Forthcoming Events

Sunday 6 May 2018: Magdalen May morning
Time: 7.45am-9.15am
Venue: Carillon, Aspen Island, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Details: Alumni are invited to join the Canberra alumni group for a celebration of Magdalen May morning, with choral music from the Australian National University Choral Society (SCUNA) and morris dancing by the Surly Griffins. Champagne, orange juice and croissants will be served at the event. 
Cost: AUD$15 per person
Booking: Please email group secretary Colin Steele to book for the event or if you have any queries.

Review of 2017

2017 began with an Oxbridge Reception at the British High Commission Residence on 27 February.

Over 90 alumni attended the reception hosted by the British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Menna Rawlings. Speeches were given by the High Commissioner and the President of the Oxford ACT Committee, Professor John White.

On 7 May, the group held its May Morning event at the Carillion, Lake Burley Griffin. More than 50 people attended, including the SCUNA choir and the Surly Griffin Morris dancers.

A University House dinner followed on 25 July, with the President of St Johns, Oxford, Professor Maggie Snowling as guest speaker, after a public lecture, attended by more than 200 people, that she gave on dyslexia.

Finally, on 9 November, the group held an Oxbridge End-of-year cocktail party in honour of the Oxbridge High Court Judges, their Honours Chief Justice Susan Kiefel (Cambridge) and Justices Patrick Keene and Geoffrey Nettle (Oxford). More than 60 people attended.

A regular feature during the year were the social gatherings of the Oxbridge Fifteen group.

May Morning Event 2016

[Images by Browwyn King]

The Canberra Oxford ACT Society May Morning has been blessed with blue skies every year since its inception in 2012. The 2016 celebration saw the welcome rain cease just before the 8am start at the Carillon at Lake Burley Griffin.

Strong winds did mean that guests had to hang on to their croissants and champagne rather than leaving them on tables as in previous years.

[Images by Browwyn King]

Canberra members have marvelled at the photos from the Oxford May Morning but the 70 present (Oxford members, guests and the performers) thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. The SCUNA Choir, led by Magdalen graduate, Dr Jonathon Powles, warmed the audience with six appropriate choral renditions.

The Surly Griffins Morris dancers performed Oxfordshire dances with their usual vigour and panache, accompanied by a five piece band.


Colin Steele – OUS Canberra (ACT)

Review of 2016

22 February - Oxbridge Reception, British High Commission
Over 75 alumni attended a reception at the British High Commission Residence hosted by the British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Menna Rawlings. Speeches were given by the High Commissioner and the President of the Oxford ACT Committee, Professor John White.

- 1 May - May Morning at the Carillion, Lake Burley Griffin
Please see review above

- 2 July, Oxbridge University House dinner
....with Professor Sir David Cannadine as guest speaker.

8 November, Oxbridge End-of-year cocktail party
....and exclusive after-hours viewing of the Canberra Museum and Gallery exhibition Peace, Love and World War : the Denmans, Empire and Australia 1910-1917, in the company of the Director of the Canberra Museum and Gallery, Shane Breynard and the Exhibition Curator, Dr David Headon.  

Review of 2015

19 March – Sir Hew Strachan Reception, University House
36 people attended the Oxbridge drinks and canapes at University House for Professor Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of History of War at All Souls College, Oxford.

3 May - May Morning Event
Read a review of the group's 2015 May Morning Event.

4 August – Oxbridge Evening of Chinese Culture and Dining
A total of 34 people attended an exclusive viewing of Ink Remix: Contemporary Art from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong at the Canberra Museum and Gallery. This was followed by dinner at the adjoining Mr Wei’s restaurant.

Review of 2014

Sixty four people attended the now traditional champagne and croissant May Morning at the Carillion, Lake Burley Griffin from Oxford and Cambridge. This event featured singing from the University of Canberra Choral, dancing by the the ‘Surly Griffins’, the Canberra Morris Men group, and music from the carillonist.


Oxbridge Mid Winter Dinner – 13 August, University House with Professor Helen Small, Pembroke College, Oxford and Tim Gardam, Principal, St Anne’s College, Oxford.
50 people, the capacity of the University House private dining room, attended an Oxbridge dinner addressed by Professor Helen Small, Professor of English at Pembroke College, Oxford and Tim Gardam, Principal, St Anne’s College, Oxford. Both Professor Small and Mr Gardam received their first degrees from Cambridge University. The Vote of Thanks was given by His Excellency, the British High Commissioner, Paul Madden. 


Oxbridge End of Year Reception – Monday, 1 December:
British High Commission Residence, Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
Reception for Oxbridge members, hosted by His Excellency Mr Paul Madden CMG and Mrs Sarah Madden. 

Review of 2013

In 2013,  the former Dean of University College, Dr Mike Nicholson recounted, on 25 February, the story of Prince Yusupov who began plotting the death of Rasputin at University College. His title is ‘The Mad Monk, the Murder and the Myth: Oxford, Prince Felix Yusupov and Grigory Rasputin.’ 


May Morning took place on May 5. It is clear now that an annual tradition has been established. The appearance of the Canberra Morris Men, The Surly Griffins, added to the appeal of the event, in addition to the carillonist and the singing by the SCUNA choir.


A successful Christmas dinner was held at the historic Lanyon Homestead on December 5, for members of the Oxford and Cambridge Societies of the ACT.  Fifty-five members attended and were addressed by Cambridge graduate Paul Madden, the British High Commissioner to Australia and Dr Don Markwell, former Warden of Rhodes House. Other attendees included the Canadian High Commissioner, a Cambridge graduate, and Rhodes Scholars resident in the ACT.

Review of 2012

2012 began with a Croquet and Pimms event at the Canberra Croquet Club on 31 March.

The now annual ‘Magdalen May Morning’  was celebrated on 29 April at Aspen Island on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin, with the SCUNA (Australian National University Choral Society) choir and a carillonist playing. Kedgeree and champagne were served.


The midwinter dinner was held at ANU’s’s Vivaldi restaurant with former Rhodes Scholar and Premier of West Australia, Geoff Gallop, as the guest speaker.


The year concluded with an Oxbridge drinks and canapes party at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, which over 60 members from both universities attended.

Contact details

Email Group Secretary Colin Steele

Tel: (+61 (0)2 612 58983