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Image of a plaque commemorating Deakin's 10th anniversary

August 31, 2021

Exploring the history of Deakin

Deakin University Archives recently received a donation of intriguing items from the University’s foundation years, including this photograph of Sir Wilfred Brookes and Deakin’s second Vice Chancellor Professor Malcom Skilbeck ceremoniously planting a tree. Sir Wilfred Brookes was the eldest grandson of Australia’s second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, and he was also a generous patron of the University.

Image of two men planting a tree

Sir Wilfred Brookes and Deakin Vice Chancellor Professor Malcom Skilbeck planting a tree to celebrate Deakin’s 10th anniversary.

To understand more about the photograph, we delved through the archives and discovered further photos and a description of the event. The tree planting took place on 6 April 1987 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Deakin University.

Image of a plaque commemorating Deakin's 10th anniversary

A plaque was made for the occasion.

It was also a part of a grand scheme to revitalise the Waurn Ponds Campus, which at the time was regarded as utilitarian at best. Home to numerous rabbits, windswept and virtually tree-less it was even unkindly dubbed ‘pleurisy plains’. Hard to imagine now, given how much our students and staff enjoy exploring the beautiful campus we have today!

We owe this in part to Professor Skilbeck, who developed an ambitious beautification plan featuring a series of lakes, lush gardens and forests. This was not only to create a more pleasant and better equipped campus, but also to mark Deakin as a mature and settled university. Students were also encouraged to literally put down roots by getting involved in Arbor Day tree plantings to green up the grey vista.

Landscape Masterplan for Waurn Ponds campus from 1987

Landscape master plan for Waurn Ponds campus from 1987 proposes to ‘dramatically alter the appearance and atmosphere of the campus’.

We are unsure what happened to the anniversary tree being planted in this photo – not eaten by rabbits we hope! If anyone knows, please get in touch with our Archivist, Antony Catrice at [email protected].

To learn more about Deakin’s history visit our recently redesigned History of Deakin site. 

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