Tag Archives: 1970

Merrie Steventon

My name is Merrie. I’m 13 and I have left school. My mother and myself and two sisters have run away. We rent a house in Hurstbridge with no electricity, no toilet; just a dunny that we have to empty every week. We have painted the seat pink, I think it helps. It is 1959. This house is at least 3km from the station. I light the tilly lamp every morning and run down to the station in my thongs. It takes me until Eltham station to tidy up. I get a full time job copying out electricity invoices at the town hall in Melbourne. I start very early and while I wait for my sister and mother after work, I teach myself to type. I meet my husband, much older than me. At 15, I conceived my first child, followed by another conceived at 16. At 21, I had my third child.

My little brother walked up my drive with a duck he had shanghaied from a dam. It took all night to pluck it, being winter, it had lots of feathers. He wanted to go to school and I talked to the Principal at Eltham High School who agreed to let him attend. My husband left me. I gathered if I could get Mick into Eltham High, I could try too. I was the second mature aged student to be allowed full-time study. Marie Louise was the other mature student and we are still in touch, both of us then single mothers with three children each. She drove her brother’s Porsche, in full racing harness and smoked flat out, as I did, we sat out the front of the school with the older boys knocking on the windows for a fag.

I worked, at times, full time and managed to finish two years of study (wonderfully flexible and understanding teachers) and after sitting HSC obtained university entrance. I met an old school friend who later moved in with me. His wife had left him for a university professor and he was not kindly towards my university study. I had started a Law/Arts degree at Monash, after a lot of pressure, I left and we managed and lived in a Milk Bar for 18 months. Sheer drudgery and very long hours. We moved to Yarrambat, cheap rent, he moved out and I asked to be allowed to study at La Trobe. An Arts degree with majors in English and Philosophy.

La Trobe University became my lifeline. It took me 9 years to complete my degree. At times hitching to La Trobe (no car). Living in a mudbrick shed with a dirt floor, no electricity, tank water. Hard on the children. On 23 acres. Every year I would start out applying for every unit, so optimistic but life very quickly intervened, kids got sick, the money ran out, I needed to work. I gathered another partner who was very supportive, as were friends. My partner and my children and mother were at my graduation in 1981. They were all so proud, they said they deserved the degree as well!

As you can gather, I have left out far more than I have written. It is very hard to convey just how beaten down I felt, having children so young, others did not hold back on criticism I was considered pretty but dumb, very “lower class”. So ignorant, I spoke well but learned to keep my mouth shut at an early age, in case I was found out…not educated!

Studying gave me the confidence to apply a different form of thinking to raising my children, who have all done well. I became a teacher, taught overseas. Was a professional actress for 10 years…did lots of different things, travelled extensively. I could not have achieved without that piece of paper, sad isn’t it!

I am confident, very happy and still very curious about life, still studying. So grateful for Gough Whitlam and La Trobe for making all things possible. Thank you La Trobe!

Jaroslav Vydra

How can an ordinary boy from a backward communist country wind up as a student of psychology at La Trobe during the wild ’70s? Cherchez la femme!

My favourite story – how I ended up at La Trobe due to several unbelievable coincidences! In the ’60s, living in a small town in Czechoslovakia was really boring so it was an unbelievable event when a girl from Prague was interested in being a pen friend – an opportunity not to be missed, so a great love story had begun… I even got to hold her hand, once, during my next Prague summer holidays.

No wonder that Prague and girlfriends and the whole love tragicomedy got burned into my brain forever. During the high school one naughty Prague girl got transferred to our class and I threw away my first proper local girlfriend, and went into this exciting love adventure! We stayed together for the next two years until graduation, and (of course) I went on to study in Prague. And, of course, it ended as it had to… she found a good looking real city boy, and I ran away to see the world. There, of course, was also a small matter of a Russian occupation, an expulsion from the university, forged letters for the visas, etc…

In Austria, as an illegal émigré I was doing the rounds of embassies to get to some English speaking country, to live adventurously and get rich quick. Originally the dream was the wilds of British Columbia, but during an interview I was told that a high school graduate is not useful for the Canadian nation… and was saved by a woman translator, who told me the famous sentence: “Go to Australia, they take anybody!”

After a month’s wait I was on a jumbo jet to Sydney, and then relocated to Melbourne, in semi-circular corrugated sheds serving as individual rooms for many ‘New Australians’ in Altona. I was there only a week that a Czech adventurer came looking for a silly boy to help him get rich with a great scheme of getting silver from a photographical fixer! I got from it an employment in Reservoir, in a factory making fans. So I moved to a place in Gilbert Road, when after a year or so one Saturday I went to a shop and heard two girls playing guitar in a church hall. Being an old bass player in a school band (and not having a girlfriend for two years, of course) I stopped, got talking and even started to date one of the girls.

As a total atheist from a ‘commie’ land I began to go to youth meetings in the church hall, and there I met a church chaplain from La Trobe University, one Ian, and since I am also a compulsive talker, he gained the impression, that I am intelligent and started to persuade me to study! In English! “Choose religion, medicine, law or psychology,” he said! Psychology won, Ian organised some La Trobe stipend and I lived with my landlady Mrs Appleton for the next three years in Macleod. That is how I wound up at La Trobe!

And for the first time in my life I studied and it was interesting! “Foolishly” I chose a Bachelor of Science structure of four, three, and two subjects in the next three years, forgetting, that I had to learn six new types of English in one year! (Listening, reading, writing, history, sociology, psychology, biology, statistics, law.) I had the sense at least to start running every day to relax a bit, and so I somehow managed to survive the first year, thanks also to some friends I made and the great staff of the Department of Sociology and History, who adopted more interesting approaches to teaching and tutorials, than was usual at that time at universities. And a young lecturer Dr. Bob Montgomery was a great psychology lecturer and also great support during my years at La Trobe.

The years at La Trobe changed my life forever. During my fourth Honours year I met my future first wife, who went crazy during my Master of Arts studies, and we had a child to fix it, it worked and I became a practical psychologist but that’s another (long) story.

I hope that many more interesting people get their real education at La Trobe, and we all celebrate every year as a good year, thanks to La Trobe a real good people we are lucky to meet!

Cathy Koning

The year was 1971; the degree a Bachelor of Arts with Diploma of Education. The college was Menzies.

I checked out my digs. Brick walls. Scratchy brown carpet. A single bed, a desk, chair and wardrobe. Shared bathrooms and shared telephone. I loved my own small, but independent, domain. I had no idea that the newly built Brutalist style college was named after Sir Robert Menzies and designed by renowned architect Robin Boyd.

The first thing I did was light up a Marlboro cigarette. They cost 40 cents a pack.

My parents were Dutch migrants. We grew up on an orchard near Shepparton. Mum was an excellent cook, feeding us everything from fillet steak and sauerkraut to smoked eels. The food at Menzies, presented in bain-maries in the large dining room known as Toad Hall, was somewhat unappetising. I often snacked in the Agora.

I did not know anyone when I arrived but soon made friends with another country girl. We got our student cards done together. Her room was directly below mine so communication was easy via our long windows.

Cathy in 1971

That year I met my new boyfriend on a blind date. He once got in the newspapers by wearing an Indian caftan in public thereby causing a car accident. We liked to play card games such as 500 when he stayed for sleepovers. The cleaning lady worked around us.

My wardrobe was style central – bell bottoms, miniskirts, hot pants, vintage chiffon dresses, a stars and stripes top, and fox furs. Looking good was important, especially when bands like Daddy Cool came to play or Peter Cook and Dudley Moore gave a lunchtime concert

Each fortnight I trekked to a small building to collect my $25 a week studentship wage. My accommodation cost $21 weekly, but with extra income from a holiday job and some goodies from home, the living at Menzies was easy.

The next year I moved to the brand new Chisholm College, followed by the University flats in Barnes Way and a run-down terrace in Carlton. But that’s another story!

Anne Tan

When I commenced study at La Trobe in 1977 it was because the University had a mature age entry program. I came to study a Bachelor of Arts degree having taught primary classes for about ten years.

The opportunity to study full-time on campus was an absolute delight and I relished my days spent in lectures, tutes and in the wonderful Library. I was so lucky to have such excellent teachers/academics to guide my learning and I would like to single out Greg Kratzmann and Lucy Frost in English, John Barratt in History and the amazing John Salmond in Interdisciplinary Studies. This last unit was a highlight of my degree and the insights and perspectives it offered underpinned my academic and teaching career.

The physical and built environment of La Trobe greatly contributed to my love of the campus- uniquely Australian.

Happy 50th Anniversary La Trobe. I truly value your role in my life.

Keith Fagg

La Trobe University was an all-embracing, eye-opening experience for a scrawny, reasonably naive 17-year-old from Geelong embarking on his first experience away from home in 1973!

Glenn College was home for the first three years of Economics, with my fourth (Honours) year sharing a house in West Preston. Life in College was memorable, with meals (generally, surprisingly, very good!) shared with fellow collegians on big wooden tables in the impressive dining hall. Traditions and rivalries between colleges – the dreaded Menzies and then Chisholm –were still being established back then, the Moat Raft Race among them.

We played indoor cricket in dorm corridors, stayed up late chatting with our resident tutors, and always crammed into the Glenn common room on Monday nights to watch “The Norman Gunston Show” and then “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” on the one, small TV set in the whole place! Humanities/Arts/Economics students endured a gruelling 12 hours a week contact load while our friends doing the sciences had at least 30 – but at least they got to wear white coats!

I have always loved that Glenn College was low-rise and built around the trees. The big courtyard was a meeting place and playground – a true ‘common’. From one’s window, you could watch the comings and goings of your cohort, seeing who had paired-up with who! The head of Glenn – Professor Oates – was a warm, approachable man who lived with his family in the house next to Glenn.

Living on campus also helped one feel very much part of the University. Being ‘in the sticks’ in far-flung Bundoora – no Ring Road or trams back in the early 1970s – meant that when you survived the bumpy hour-plus bus ride from Spencer Street, the campus became your world for at least five out of seven days. Late access to the Library and computer labs were among many benefits, and of course making lifelong friends.

After graduating, and while working professionally in industry research, I tutored in Location Economics in 1977/78, only finishing when a new role interstate beckoned.

As a professional and personal formative place, there are none better!

Stephen Paul

My family moved out to Bundoora from Carlton in 1967, a few weeks after La Trobe started taking students. While neither of my parents, or any other members of my family, had attended university, there was always an expectation that I, along with my brother, would go and graduate with a degree. My parents believed in the transformative nature of education and how getting ‘a piece of paper’ was the key to advancement in society.

While imbued with the idealistic dream of further study, the pragmatism of the working class was that it was probably more sensible to go to the University around the corner than be travelling into town or across the suburbs.

La Trobe was our local resource. I played football for the Bundoora Bunnies whose original ground has now been consumed by the La Trobe Wildlife Reserve. The Borchardt Library was our local library and, as students at Reservoir High, we used the library after school and on weekends to study and socialise in form five and six. So by the time I commenced my Bachelor of Economics in 1975, I felt very comfortable in my environment.

Stephen playing football at what is now La Trobe’s Wildlife Sanctuary

The Bundoora campus was surrounded by roads, carparks and a moat, and dotted with indigenous flora and fauna. It provided a stark contrast to the suburban environment I grew up in, in Bundoora and Reservoir.

The social and political environment changed dramatically during the time I was at La Trobe. Gough was sacked, its was generally believed by the student population that November was chosen because the conservative forces knew that the student population would be tied up with exams and therefore would not be able to organise and rise up in rebellion against the coup, which demonstrates that young people have always had an overblown opinion of their own importance and that conspiracy theories are not new. The Vietnam War ended and Chairman Mao died. Radicals unfurled a picture of Mao and the line from the other Lennon came to my head, “People who carry pictures of Chariman Mao, aren’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”

After completing my Bachelor of Economics, I completed a Bachelor of Arts and later a Postgraduate Diploma in Policy and Law.

Cathy Hall-van den Elsen

I first encountered La Trobe University fifty years ago when my mother, herself a university graduate, took her young daughter for a walk from Plenty Road to a muddy building site with the outline of a moat. Mum explained that this would soon become a university, and observed that one day I might study there.

Ten years later, in 1976, I was in my first year of an Arts degree at La Trobe, majoring in Spanish, enjoying the intensive language tuition conducted by fabulous teachers in the Spanish department (then overflowing with students). José Sangiau in particular had a personal mission to meet as many students as he could in “the caf” after class and at social occasions, never missing an opportunity to engage us in social chats in Spanish – there was no escaping his enthusiasm. While I struggled with the complexities of the Spanish subjunctive, I also immersed myself in the then unfamiliar language of art history in a department presided over by the impressive Professor Peter Tomory.

My peers chose varied paths after their three years of undergraduate study, but, by 1981, I had graduated with BA (Hons) in Spanish, I had met and married my husband (we were the only two students in our Honours Spanish class), and we had celebrated the arrival of our son.

The next few years saw the birth of our daughter and the completion of my masters degree in Spanish. In 1988 the family moved with me to Spain while I undertook archival research for my PhD on the life and work of Luisa Roldán, a little known Spanish sculptor.

I graduated in 1992, twenty-five years after I walked through the paddocks with my mother.

My years at La Trobe enriched my life. The passion of my undergraduate teachers, the University’s support of my postgraduate study, and our travels in Spain provide treasured, life-long memories for me, and for my family.

Peter Millard

I began my La Trobe journey, in 1972, thanks to Gough Whitlam.

I arrived at the University from Coleraine in the far western district as a naïve 18-year-old. My first three years were spent in the Spanish department where I studied Spanish, Portuguese, and Linguistics. I will never forget the monthly Friday night parties and lunchtime comidas or the after-language-lab coffees in the Plaka with Jose Sangiau. These studies have left me an enduring legacy.

I was living in the Glenn College units while studying my Dip. Ed. when a lovely young lady (Linden Dean) moved into the room next to mine. Forty-five years later, we are still together and are the proud parents of two young men who are living in Melbourne. My wife came from East Gippsland and was also at university thanks to Gough. We became teachers: she primary, me secondary. After 10 years in Melbourne we moved to Bairnsdale. For two years I taught Spanish at Lakes Entrance Secondary College. I also taught Spanish at the local adult education centre. I taught Spanish at Maribyrnong High School (1978-1985), and English to refugees from South America. I was outraged when the students laughed at my Spanish accent and quickly adjusted to a South American version. I also improved my Spanish by chatting to the parents when they visited the school.

My wife studied Art History at La Trobe and has gone on to be an artist who has exhibited in Slovenia and New York. We went over for the opening of her exhibition. While waiting in the airport I met a Chilean family who were lost. They did not speak English so I used my Spanish to help them on their way.

In 1998, when I was diagnosed with an incurable cancer and given 18 months to live, I had a stem cell transplant which kept me alive so that I could travel to every Spanish and Portuguese speaking country. In retirement, we can travel more. This would not be possible without a good education which led to our professional careers.

Muchas gracias Spanish department. Thanks La Trobe!

Helen Sutherland

My entry to La Trobe University in 1977 was as a recipient of an Early Leavers Scheme placement. I was thrilled to discover a vibrant Department of Humanities. I feel sad the Department as I knew it is no longer in existence. I would like mention the names of some lecturers and ask to be forgiven for taking the liberty of leaving out mention of titles and honours.

My journey began with 1st year Spanish and I found it hard to keep up with the cracking pace set by Don Jose. However, I lasted the distance and could speak passable Spanish.

I was introduced to Bamburger and Brofsky in the Music Department by John McCaughey and learned how to listen to music with a “refined” ear, and whenever I hear Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, I think of them. In 3rd year Music, I took a step back in time to study Early Music with John Stinson and was thrilled, despite my ‘unusual’ voice, to be in the choir of a production of Peri’s “Euridice” directed by Andrea von Ramm, world famous musicologist from Basel University, at Melba Hall.

My Art History major began immersed in Greek Art and Sculpture with Ian McPhee and led to meeting Dale Trendall who became a dear friend. I worked my way through the centuries of Western Art with Robert Gaston and eventually reached the 20th Century and met Richard Haese. I learned to value the works of the Australian artists and appreciate the struggle they had to be accepted on the world stage.

In 1988, I enrolled in postgraduate studies in the English and Philosophy Departments and regret, because of changed life circumstances, I was unable to finish. However, the influence of the work of John Wiltshire and Kay Torney in “Literature and the Experience of Illness” and David Tacey and Robert Farrell in the introduction to the works of “Carl Gustave Jung” have had a profound impact on my life.

I made lifelong friends, learnt much, and had fun at La Trobe University. Wherever I go, whatever I do, memories of my time there are always with me and for that I am extremely grateful.

Terry Brooks

I finished school in 1971 and worked for a year as, firstly, a clerk and, then, a truck driver.

In 1973, I then gladly took up study at La Trobe in the Humanities stream majoring in French. At this time, the European languages stream at La Trobe was very strong, particularly the French Department under the late Professor Forsythe. I threw myself into student life, learning the language and culture, getting involved in theatre productions (Moliere), and spending many hours climbing and skiing with the LUMC. Courtesy of the language laboratories, I graduated with strong language skills which I retain today and, thanks to the keen attention to culture, I also emerged with a strong knowledge of this European culture.

Terry at La Trobe University’s Lawn Lunch in March 2017

Just short of two decades later, I returned to La Trobe to pursue postgraduate studies in Accounting and Commerce. By now I was more keen to finish this course in the shortest possible time so as to get back to work and with the best possible marks.

For me, the role of a university is provide not only formal vocational skills but also broader skills in thinking, being able to contribute to society and developing a more rounded individual.
La Trobe has done all of this for me. It is also where I made lifelong friendships.