Jeff Kennett portrait

Jeff Kennett, premier 1992-99
Title Premier Jeff Kennett
Artist Peter Churcher
Date 2000
Medium Oil on canvas
1450 x 1160 x 65 mm
Premier 6th October 1992 – 20th October 1999

Jeffrey Gibb Kennett was born on the 2ndof March 1948 and attended Scotch College and the Australian National University. He left university after one year and worked for the department store Myer before being conscripted into the Army. Kennett served as an officer in Malaysia and Singapore. On returning to civilian life he founded an advertising company KNF in 1971 and in March 1976 was elected as the Liberal candidate for the Legislative Assembly seat of Burwood.

Kennett was Minister of Housing and of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs from 1981-82 and became leader of the opposition when Lindsay Thompson’s government lost the 1982 election. Kennett’s cavalier style caused tensions within the Liberal party and in May 1989 he lost the leadership to Allan Brown. During this period the Liberal and National Party signed a memorandum of understanding to formalise a coalition arrangement. Kennett regained party leadership in 1991 and became premier in October 1992 when the Coalition won a landslide election.

Victoria was in economic recession with significant debt and the new government set to work curtailing expenditure and selling off state assets. The Public Sector Management Act 1992 allowed for the public service to be restructured, reducing the number of departments and enforcing major management changes. Kennett championed private investment and early in his premiership secured the Australian Grand Prix for Melbourne and approved the establishment of Crown Casino. The government was returned to office at the 1996 election and embarked on a series of joint government-private enterprise infrastructure projects for Melbourne. These included the City-Link freeway, construction of the Docklands stadium, and the new exhibition building (colloquially known as “Jeff’s Shed”).

The Kennett lead coalition government was unexpectedly defeated at the October 1999 elections. While the privatisation of state assets, closure of schools and Kennett’s at times autocratic leadership had worn thin with metropolitan voters, the neglect of rural Victoria had deeply alienated voters against the coalition. With the support of three independent members, Labor leader Steve Bracks was able to form government. Shortly after the election Kennett resigned from parliament, his career since has included the being chairman of Beyondblue and president of the Hawthorn Football Club.

The Artist and the Portrait

Peter Churcher b. 1964 –

Peter Churcher is an Australian figurative painter based in Barcelona. Churcher’s works have been selected as finalists in the Archibald Prize numerous times and he has received prestigious commissions from the Australian War Memorial in 2002 as an official Australian war artist, and from the Parliament of Victoria for this portrait of Jeff Kennett in 2000.

At the unveiling of the portrait in 2001, Kennett with characteristic flair wore the exact outfit he is depicted in, including the gold map of Victoria lapel pin worn by Liberal members during his Government.


© Peter Churcher