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Belz Lecture

The Belz Lecture commenced in 1969 when Clem Pratt was the Victorian Branch President of the Statistical Society of Australia. It has become the premier event of the Victorian and Tasmanian Branch calendar and is followed by the annual Belz dinner. The Lecture is named in honour of Maurice Belz, the Foundation Professor of Statistics at the University of Melbourne, who was largely responsible for setting up the first autonomous Department of Statistics in Australia. The 1969 meeting notice states:

“The first Maurice H. Belz Lecture, recently inaugurated by the Statistical Society in honour of Professor Maurice Belz for his work in establishing and advancing the science of Statistics in Australia, will be given in the Sisalkraft Lecture Theatre, Architecture School, University of Melbourne, on Tuesday, November 25th, at 7:45 pm.”

See below for a brief biography of Belz.

Initially the Belz Lecturers knew Belz personally. As the supply of prominent statisticians in this category diminished, the criterion for selecting the Belz Lecturer changed. The honour was usually given to a high-level statistician with some association with the University of Melbourne, such as a staff member or former student. Today, invitations to give the Belz Lecture are issued more broadly, but our relationship with the University of Melbourne has continued, with the Belz Lecture usually co-hosted with the University.

The choice of Belz Lecturer is made by the current President of the Victorian and Tasmanian Branch, after discussion with the Branch Council. The main criteria are a good reputation as a speaker and an ability to provide insight on issues of concern to the wider statistical community.

The Belz Lecture is not an academic seminar. It should appeal to a broad range of statisticians and be at a level accessible to all. A full list of titles of past Belz Lectures follows.




2022 D. Neiger

From counting blueberries to Chief Statistician: practicing the theory of statistics

2021 A. Forbes Tales of clinical trials, tribulations, twists and turns
2020 T. Dickinson
"To be Trusted is a Greater Compliment than to be Loved", A Maxim for Official Statistics?
2019 A. Ugoni Statistics is the Crown Jewel of Data Science
2018 D. Cook Human vs computer. When visualising data, who wins?
2017 N. Cressie A Bird's-Eye View of Statistics for Remote Sensing Data
2016 L. Ryan But I'm a data scientist too, aren't 1?
2015 D.Balding Statistical Evaluation of Evidence in Criminal Casework
2014 J. Henstridge The Statistician as an Expert. The Truth, the Whole Truth and Statistics.


I. White

Synthesizing medical literature


C. Wild

The need for speed


K. Mengersen

Adventures in Bayesian statistics


C. Lloyd

Data based public debate: Why aren’t we at the centre of it?


J. Carlin

Filling in the missing values: Multiple imputation and the magic of applied statistics


W. Dunsmuir

Time Series That Count!


A. Welsh

Fisher and inference for scores


R. J. Hyndman

Forecasting and the importance of being uncertain


A. Baddeley

Sampling for vegetables


D. Lievesley

The role of an international statistician


D. Vere-Jones

Teacher and student: glimpses in the life and times of the Russian mathematicians A.Y. Khinchin and B.V. Gnedenko


R. Watson

A statistical hotchpotch


D. Trewin

The importance of a quality culture


G. Laslett

The Jinmium controversy


O. Mayo

Assessing interaction in genetical systems


J. Matthews

Breakthrough or bunkum? Sources of bias in the design, conduct, analysis and interpretation of clinical trials


B. Brown

The importance of being smooth


S. Sheather

What every statistician should know about robust and nonparametric regression


I.R. Gordon

Tall tales but true: some data-based short stories


S. Wilson

Past, present and future challenges at the interfaces of statistical science and molecular genetics


A. Pettitt

Stochastic approximation: an opportunity for statistical modelling? (Or MC all squared = E for ecstasy?)


T.C. Brown

Does passive smoking cause lung cancer and did dust cause Mr Smith’s lung cancer?


D. McNeil

Statistical graphics and experimental research


R. Sandland

The Division of Mathematics and Statistics at CSIRO: hallucinations, nightmares and visions


J. Darroch

Where do probabilities come from? Sources of stochastic variability


D.J. Scott

Statistics and computing or why I can’t choose a computer


R.G. Jarrett

Statistics – the way forward


P.G. Hall

Changes and challenges of contemporary statistical theory


D. Ironmonger

Statistical perspectives – some effects on society


T.P. Speed

Some statistical aspects of nuclear materials safeguards


D.J. Daley

Ranking individuals


G.S. Watson

Statistical problems in the earth sciences


E.J. Hannan

Is theory practically useless?


C.C. Heyde

Trends in the statistical sciences


J.S. Maritz

Standard errors: some new thoughts on an old problem


G.A. Watterson

Testing for selection in genetic evolution


N.G. Becker

Models and designs for experiments with mixtures


P.D. Finch

The crude analysis of survivorship data


J.M. Gani

Some aspects in the development of statistics in Australia


P.J. Brockwell

Probability: past and present


C.R. Heathcote

The statistician and nuclear proliferation


J.B. Douglas

Contagion isn’t catching


E.J. Williams

Whither statistical principles?


P.A.P. Moran

Maximum likelihood estimators under anomalous conditions


W.J. Ewens

Statistics: a perspective from genetics

Maurice Belz: A Brief Biography

Maurice Belz was born on the 1 February 1897 at Auburn, Sydney. He was educated at Sydney Boys’ High School and The University of Sydney, from which he graduated with a B.Sc. in 1918. He was awarded the university medal in mathematics. In 1920 he received a Barker travelling scholarship, and completed his M.Sc. at Cambridge in 1922. He worked in the Cavendish Laboratory under Lord Rutherford.

In 1923 Belz took up a lectureship in mathematics at the University of Melbourne. In 1929 he introduced a course on the theory of statistics. With Professor J.H. Michell he published The elements of mathematical analysis(London, 1937). In 1948 the University of Melbourne, at Belz’ instigation, formed the first autonomous Department of Statistics in Australia. Belz, then associate professor, was appointed head, and was promoted to professor in 1955. He retired in 1963.

Many of the initial generation of Australia’s professional statisticians were either trained or taught in Belz’s department. He established a course for graduates of science and industry, and encouraged university researchers and industrial organizations to seek statistical assistance from departmental staff. During visits to Britain (1961, 1964 and 1970-1972) he worked as a consultant to the British Petroleum Company in London, and prepared Statistical Methods for the Process Industries (London, 1973) for publication.

Belz was elected a member of the International Statistical Institute in 1948, and he was made an honorary member of the Statistical Society of Australia in 1970. He was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1954. He died on 28 March 1975.

Adapted from Betty Laby (1993) Maurice Henry Belz (1897-1975). The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, pp. 160-161.

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