Skip to navigation Skip to content
Students walking through Waurn Ponds Campus

17 September 2021

See how we’ve evolved over the years (and help us connect the dots!) with Deakin’s revamped historical website

Hey there, history buffs! Deakin University Archives recently received a donation of intriguing items from the University’s foundation years, including a photograph of Sir Wilfred Brookes and Deakin’s second Vice Chancellor Professor Malcom Skilbeck ceremoniously planting a tree (below, left). 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.

Going back to our roots: what does this photo mean?

Sir Wilfred Brookes and Deakin’s second Vice Chancellor Professor Malcom Skilbeck ceremoniously planting a tree

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 and a recovered photo shows a plaque (below) was created to honour this event.

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.

A modern-day mystery!Plaque commemorating tenth anniversary of the establishment of Deakin University

We are unsure what happened to the anniversary tree being planted in the photo above – not eaten by rabbits, we hope!

If you or anyone knows, please get in touch with our Archivist, Antony Catrice at [email protected].

Find out the full story

To learn more about how the University has grown over the years, visit the recently redesigned History of Deakin site.

Edited version of article originally published on Article, the Deakin Library blog

back to top