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Brian Herbert Medlin 1927-2004 

MSS 0254


Brian Medlin (1927-2004), Professor of Philosophy at Flinders University from 1967 to 1988.

Brian Medlin was born in 1927 in Orroroo, South Australia and was educated at Richmond Primary School and Adelaide Technical High School. He then worked as a storekeeper on the Victoria River Downs station, and as a kangaroo shooter, stockyard builder, horse-breaker and drover before returning to Adelaide to work as a clerk at Ansett Airways and a teacher at Adelaide Technical High School. though it was Medlin's oft-repeated contention that his education was drawn from the State Library of South Australia and the bush; was introduced to the work of philosopher Bertrand Russell while at secondary school;

Medlin enrolled at the University of Adelaide to study English, Latin and Philosophy and began to write poetry. He was awarded a Kennedy Research scholarship and, with some financial support from his friend, Charles Jury, went to Oxford, then taught philosophy in newly independent Ghana before taking up a Research Fellowship in 1961 at New College, Oxford, where he befriended author Iris Murdoch. He returned to Australia in 1964 to take up a research readership at the University of Queensland before his appointment in 1967 as Foundation Professor of Philosophy at Flinders University.

While at Flinders he became a leader of the campaign to stop the war in Vietnam (for which he was arrested in September 1970.) He also set up a democratic Staff-Student Consultative Committee at Flinders University Philosophy Department, introduced the first Women's Studies course in Australia, and wrote and taught a course in Politics and Art where he met and became close friends with John Schumann of the folk-rock band 'Redgum.' Medlin retired in 1988 and was named Emeritus Professor.

He then settled on a small property near Horsham, Victoria, with his wife, Christine Vick, where they restored ten run-down acres to bushland and for which they were awarded an Environmental Hero Award. He continued writing philosophy and corresponding with friends and academics worldwide until his death in 2004. He is survived by his wife Christine, his children Barnabus, Margaret, Jake and Bruno and his step-daughters Alice and Rebecca.

Adapted from John Schumman’s obituary.


Medlin’s unpublished A Book of Poems and A Second Book of Poems, plus a collection of unpublished poetry were transferred from the Rare Book Oversize collection. Other works were transferred from the Papers of Professor Edwin Harry Medlin.



Letters to ‘Loynriz’ 24/3/1997 – 16/6/1997, mainly concerning his property and the wildlife. Computer printout, 12 p.

Letters to Roy and Liz Edgley from Brian Medlin and Christine Vick June-July 1998. 2 letters, one with extensive attachments re ‘the bush’ and fire. Computer printout, 26 p.

Letters to Iris Murdoch 20/3/1988-1/8/1988, includes Medlin’s valedictory address for Bill Ivey, his note on the recent work of Brian Matthews, and descriptions of his travels through country South Australia and Victoria. Printout, 41 P.


Meath: the visit of Christine Vick and Brian Medlin April-June 1993: a journal kept by Brian Medlin. Computer printout. 52 p.


  • A seduction poem
  • Poem after a party
  • A love poem
  • Moratorium songs (2)
  • ‘Oh I’m a smart fellow, Don Dunstan’s my name …’
  • [Verse]

  • A Book of Poems / Brian Medlin. Typescript (Mimeographed copy) 94, [2] leaves. Inscibed to Richard Tipping July 1970 from Brian Medlin. With review from On Dit or Empire Times.
    **”Unpublished. Access only with permission of Professor Brian Medlin of the Flinders University of South Australia or of his literary executors.”
  • Second copy of above, inscribed to Geoff & Joan Harcourt, July 1970
  • A Second Book of Poems / Brian Medlin. Typescript (Mimeographed copy) [52] leaves. Inscibed to Rich & Betty.
    **”Unpublished. Access only with permission of Professor Brian Medlin of the Flinders University of South Australia or of his literary executors.”

Short Stories by Timothy Tregonning [Brian Medlin}

  • Educating the old man. Printout, 14 p.
  • The old girl. Printout, 20 p.
  • Lou and Clive. Printout, 6 p.
  • Death in Australia. Printout, 7 p.
  • Uncle Horace. Printout, 11 p.
  • A grateful country. Photocopy, 18 p. (annotated ‘Draft?)
  • Bruno works his head. Photocopy, 16 p. 

Papers / addresses / essays

The Art of Gesture: an address by Brian Medlin delivered in Flinders University on 27 July 1988, the occasion of the celebration of the publication ‘The Art of Gesture: the practice and principles of 18th century acting’ by Dene Barnett … Printout, [7] p.

Ideology for Extinction / Brian Medlin [September 1989] Printout, 15 p. Read 22/9/1989 at the Ecopolitics Conference IV at the University of Adelaide.  With a corrected version as published.

Ecological Crisis and Social Order / Brian Medlin, Flinders University [ca 1991]. Printout, 25 p.

The Lunacy and Sanity of Philosophers: address to launch Cross Currents: Philosophy in the Nineties: a collection of papers presented at Philosophy Club Seminars, Flinders University / Brain Medlin, 5 August 1992. Printout, 8 p.

Love, Morality and the Meaning of Life / Brian Medlin. Paper delivered in abridged form to the Philosophy Club, The Flinders University of South Australia, August 29, 1992. Printout, 30 p. plus 2 p of ms annotations [by Harry Medlin?] At head: Draft only: do not reproduce or publicly quote without written permission from the author.
- also final version read at the Australasian Association of Philosophy, The University of Adelaide, July 8 1993. Printout, 17 p.
- [another version] Printout, 19 p.

The Faculty of Unreason and Sustainable Economies / Brian Medlin. Delivered 27/10/1992 for seminar series ‘Towards the Twenty-first Century’, the Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Flinders University. Printout, 10 p. 2 copies, one with ms annotations

Bush Regeneration: case study of a project undertaken by Christine Vick and Brian Medlin. Presented to a workshop by Greening Australia, Horsham 24 July 1997 by Christine Vick. Printout, 17 p.

Philosophy and Morality / Brain Medlin. [undated] Esay dedicated to His father, Jack Medlin 1893-1986. Printout, 34 p.

Strategy for the revolution, (from Flinders University student paper?)


Speeches made at Brian Medlin’s 70th birthday

  • John Schumann. ‘Remarks at a dinner to celebrate, belatedly, Brian Medlin’s 70th birthday. Horsham – 23/5/1998. Printout, 4 p.
  • speeches by Christine Vick (2 p.), Brian Medlin (4 p.)
  • Poems: A love poem addressed to my comrades throughout the world / Brian Medlin; For Brian Medlin / Peter Hicks
  • [impromptu remarks by Bob Hawkes] 1 p.

‘John Bray: a funeral oration’ / Brian Medlin, delivered 3 July 1995. Printout, 3 p.

‘John Bray: Poet: a memorial address delivered 25th July 1995 at the commemoration of his life, Bonython Hall, The University of Adelaide / Brian Medlin. Printout, 4 p.

Newspaper article: Stewart Cockburn talks to Professor Medlin (Adelaide Advertiser June 12, 1971)

Cheryl Hoskin
March 2020

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