In fact my first love wasn’t even a person, but a place. It was on a holiday-activity, bus trip around Brisbane that Mum & I first visited The University of Queensland’s campus at St Lucia. For me it was love at first sight. At the time I’d have been a year or two away from heading to uni, and the gorgeous sandstone surrounds of the Great Court stole my heart. There in its centre was a carpet of green adorned with jacaranda and gum trees. The colonnaded cloisters with their deep shade were equally appealing. Little did I know at the time that the sandstone was quarried in Helidon, not too far from my Kunkel ancestors’ home at Murphys Creek which also had sandstone quarries. Around the buildings are grotesques or gargoyles which are maintained to this day.
All of the Great Court buildings were to be joined together by colonnaded sandstone cloisters around the two hectare (six acre) courtyard. The mix of violet, lavender, cream and brown sandstone from Helidon created a mottled but beautiful unified core for the St. Lucia campus, which remains much as the architects envisaged….
Falling in love is one thing, sustaining the relationship is another. With the freedom of leaving school and the excitement of 1960s life on campus, not to mention meeting the man in my life, academic performance wasn’t what it could have been. But I have such great memories of those undergraduate years:
- Newman society debates and socialising
- Folk Masses in the Forgan Smith building at lunch times (post Vatican II)
- Listening to the radical speakers (students and academics) at other lunch times talking about civil liberties and the Vietnam War
- Civil liberties marches and demonstrations
- Sitting with Mr Cassmob listening to music in the Music room of the Refectory
- Meeting Mr Cassmob for the first time
- Hanging out with friends in the Refec between lectures and science pracs.
- The pervasive blooming of the jacarandas signalling the start of the exam (or swatting) period
- Sitting exams mostly off-campus (Cloudland or the Wool Pavilion)
Hot, hot days writing exams as invigilators prowled constantly pouring cold water, girls sat with their skirts up to the point of indecency and boys took their shirts off.
Little did I know at the time how pivotal the university would continue to be in my life, despite my chequered undergraduate degree. On our return from PNG I eventually finished my degree and got a casual job with UQ, thanks to the fact that the interviewer actually understood the work I’d been doing in Port Moresby. That job turned from casual to permanent during my employment in the Business Services Division. Later on again my employment would turn to contracts as I took on research administration, not all of it at the St Lucia campus. It was here that I would meet many great friends, including my other best mate Linda. Lunch times at the Staff Club, coffee at Wordsmiths, long hours of high intensity work, and even a family history conference. My time at UQ ended with our move to Darwin: I had spent 18 years studying or working there.
While the core of the university remains the same, someone revisiting for the first time since the late 1960s would get a large shock as the architecture, and campus density is so very different. Buildings have mushroomed around the campus including on the front lawn where the featured collage photo was taken. Of all the changes that is perhaps the greatest loss: the sense of presence it gave to one of the approaches to the university. If you ever wonder about the significance of bequests and donations, wonder no more, as the whole site for The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus was paid for by Mayne family, whose subsequent bequests continue to benefit the university, its research and buildings to this day.
I should have photos galore of the university but I guess in those days I didn’t take my camera to work. There are a few on Flickr but under copyright.