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Black and white photo of an office with former Deakin VC Fred Jevons dressed as Santa Claus.

December 15, 2021

From the archives: Christmas in Campus

From carvery specials in the Union Bistro to carols by the Deakin Choir, a glimpse through Deakin’s staff newsletter Campus reveals how Christmas has been celebrated on our campuses through the years. Campus ran from 1977–1990 and detailed everything staff needed to know, such as the activities on University Council, social events and job vacancies. A classifieds section allowed staff to advertise anything from the sale of unwanted furniture to holiday rentals.

Here’s how Campus reported Christmas.

Image of a newspaper header from 1978, with the Deakin logo and title 'Campus'. Tagline reads 'A newsletter for circulation to members of Deakin University'.

Campus ran from 1977-1990 sharing all the latest news from Deakin.

Food and wine feature largely

In 1979, readers of Campus were urged to ‘Book the Union Bistro for that Christmas Dinner or party’. The Christmas Carvery offered a fruit cocktail followed by roast pork, beef, ham, or turkey accompanied by roast potatoes and vegetables. Rich Christmas pudding or mince tarts complemented the meal. All this for just $3.50 per head.

By 1983 the Christmas special had expanded to include Prawn and Avocado Cocktail and baked ham on the bone, finished with tea or coffee and After Dinner Mints. But such sophistication came at a price: the Christmas special had risen to $6.50!

Black and white image of diners sitting in Deakin's Union Bistro.

The Union Bistro in 1979.

And, for the wine lover, Christmas meetings of the Deakin Wine Appreciation Group were held, pairing local and international wines with selected cheeses.

With all this indulgence, the Deakin Gym saw a marketing opportunity. From 1986, many advertisements for Christmas dinners would be followed by one from the Deakin Gym urging readers to ‘join an intrepid band of seekers after fitness to fight the ‘Xmas Bulge”.

Spending money

A variety of Christmas gifts and treats could be bought on campus. The Bookshop encouraged staff to purchase gifts or stock up on holiday reading, while The Nut Parlour had specials on mixed fruit, walnuts and gift packs of glace fruit. Customers were urged to ‘Stock up on Christmas puds!’.

The Union Shop had Christmas specials too. An advertisement from 1979 announced they ‘stock everything from toothpicks to Playboy’, and yet, Deakin ties and cufflinks were offered as ‘an unusual Christmas gift’.

But the true meaning of Christmas was not lost on Deakin staff. Many schemes were designed to spread goodwill and raise money for good causes. The Friends of Deakin raised money by producing Christmas Cards featuring the Deakin Chapel. In what became a Christmas tradition, the sale of the Bird Calendar raised money for the Royal Australasian Ornithological Union. It was available for purchase from Head Librarian and avid bird fancier Margaret Cameron.


Musical groups such as the Deakin University Orchestra and the Deakin Singers held Christmas concerts, often performed with local community groups and musicians. While carols were traditional favourites, in 1980 the Deakin University Orchestra extended their repertoire to include musical highlights from the film Rocky and songs by Barry Manilow.

Deakin choir stands in a group, singing as they are lead by a conductor

The Deakin Singers performing in 1987.

Christmas Parties

Of the numerous Christmas parties reported in Campus the Vice Chancellor’s Christmas party features most widely. Staff are invited to leave their desks and enjoy the company of their colleagues and listen to the VC’s speech, which would acknowledge the contributions of staff, remind staff of the university’s purpose and close the year. Father Christmas appeared at a few such parties.

Photo of a red fire truck with a person dressed as Santa in the drivers seat.

Father Christmas arrives by Fire truck for a Christmas party, 1986

Black and white photo of an office with former Deakin VC Fred Jevons dressed as Santa Claus.

Father Christmas (looking suspiciously like the VC Fred Jevons) brought gifts to Media Unit staff in 1981

Campus captures life at Deakin in its earliest years and is a fascinating historical resource. Campus shows that Deakin celebrated Christmas in ways similar to most large institutions, but like a family album it reveals the often-smaller events and occasions that when combined create an impression.

It is pleasing to see through Campus that Deakin has celebrated the spirit of Christmas with collegiality, generosity and good will. Wishing you the same for Christmas in 2021!

Want to learn more about Deakin’s history? Visit our History of Deakin site. 

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