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March 6, 2019

It all began here: A visual history of Deakin’s first campus (1970s –1980s)

Thousands of photos and records from the past five decades are carefully managed by Deakin University Archives to ensure we preserve our history. Working with the library, the Archives team is currently hosting an exhibition of photographs depicting life in the early years of the university. You can see the display on levels 2 and 3 of the Waurn Ponds Library, but we’ve provided you with a sneak preview of some of our favourite photos here.

Established in 1974 as Victoria’s fourth university, Deakin opened its doors to the first student intake in April 1977. The campus was set up in farmland on the outskirts of Geelong, and some of the images reveal the sparseness of the environment for Deakin’s foundation students and staff. There are a number of aerial shots showing the budding university as it begins to spread across the farm paddocks. Staff contributed to the beautification of the campus and even gave up their weekends to plant gum trees to provide some much-needed shade.

Many of the early campus photographs were taken by Peter Lane, who was part of the Media Unit at the time. Peter is still at Deakin, currently working as a video designer for Deakin Learning Futures. Taken in 1977, the image below depicts the commencement of work on Delacombe Court. According to the staff newsletter from the time, construction work on the courtyard ‘caused some disruption to the campus. The noise and mechanical effects of the heavy machinery have disturbed people in the library building.’

When completed, the Court’s landscaping wasn’t enough to disguise Deakin’s rural origins. The ornamental pool not only attracted students keen to cool off after some strenuous extra-curricular activity: this photograph from 1982 reveals that cattle from surrounding farms were also drawn to the Quad’s water feature.

Delacombe Court was also the venue for many of Deakin’s Orientation Week activities, bands and guest speakers, and there are many photos in the exhibition depicting the range of events on offer. You can also view the library in its early years, when microfiche and laminating services were cutting-edge offerings.

An exhibition favourite, the image below commemorates the triumphant return of the Deakin University Surf Club, who drove across the Nullabor in a rented Falcon station wagon to compete in the 1977 Australian Intervarsity Surf Championships. All the young men made the finals, with the team eventually finishing in fifth place.

This photographic selection is just a taste of some of the thousands of images held by Deakin University Archives. If you’d like to see more, the Archives Collection is now searchable via the web and includes records of historical and cultural importance to Deakin and its predecessor institutions. Accessible to staff, students and external researchers, Archives holds official University documents as well as audio-visual material, course books and unit guides, posters, architectural plans, publications and artefacts.

We hope that this exhibition is the first of many opportunities to share these campus memories with Deakin staff and students.

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