1970s Alumni Reunion
It was memorable reunion from start to finish!
Memories of life at St Catherines came flooding back as we stepped back into the 1970s time zone. Although we took a little time to recognise each other, the 50 past residents from the 1970s connected and reconnected with each other with great warmth, genuine excitement and enthusiasm.
For some residents it was the first time we had returned or seen each other in over 40 years. And hadn't we changed. Like fine wine we had matured into a full-bodied vintage, well blended, with a sweet bouquet and depth of character: valuable and highly sought after!
As we met and talked, we realised that over the decades, we had racked up a multitude of experiences and memories: the good, the bad, the exciting, mundane, and everything in between. And what a great time it was for young women.
The world stage was set to receive aspiring young girls. There was a global move to an egalitarian society, the racial equality movement led the way for gender equality, aboriginal land rights, cultural and religious diversity, the green movement. Women took the reins of running countries; we saw women as strong role models in science, government, leadership and the sexual revolution gave women control over their bodies. In Australia there was equal pay for equal work, the right to paid maternity leave, the voting age dropped to 18, the Whitlam government provided free tertiary education and even the mass media including TV and songs reflected woman power. For example, The Mary Tyler More show, the first woman owned and run TV show and Helen Reddy's song 'I am Woman'.
As a result, many more girls aspired for higher education, desiring independence, professional careers and a leading role in society. And how wonderful that St Catherines was available as a residential college to offer a stepping stone for many young women. And in the 1970s the college experienced a surge in enrolments.
Thanks to the many people who persisted in establishing a women’s college, we were able to benefit from the enriching experiences of life in a residential college whilst attending University. Without the college, attending University may not have been possible for those of us who were from country regions, overseas or outer metropolitan areas. The College reunion was planned with great attention to detail and included a tour of the College, both the old and the new. So much has changed with so many more facilities, programs and experiences being afforded to the current and future residents. We were so impressed with the forward thinking that went into the Innovation Centre that fosters creativity and invention, the retreat for the aboriginal students to support their needs, the lovely intimate social areas to enable students to connect with others, the well furbished rooms with catering facilities, the roof top garden, entertainment and relaxation spaces and of course the original dining room which continues to provide sensational and nutritious brain food!
We also noted some other little changes such as no phone duty as each room has its own WiFi, that smoking is not permitted in the building and the fact that men are present, legitimately! Oh, how we would love to return to the College now!
The tour also included the College's extension to include hotel style rooms and self-catering apartments. This, together with the great seminar and convention style rooms, provides another aspect to the educational programs. An attractive weekend get-away for anyone of any age!
The Head of College, Fiona Crowe, whose enthusiasm and leadership has taken the college to a new level, provided an overview and the vision for the future of the college.
Ella a current student related her life at college and confirmed that one of the benefits of staying at St Cats is the camaraderie that forms the bonds of friendship to last a lifetime. Her talk was so heartfelt and inspiring, that as a group we decided that we would like to contribute towards a scholarship that would help others like Ella to have the same opportunity as she and we have had.
As part of the reunion, the hospitality included welcome drinks, lunch, wine and champagne. The College provided a most salubrious luncheon but we were amazed and delighted to discover that there were monies available from our ticket purchase. We agreed that these monies would go towards commencing a scholarship. Our thanks go to John Barley, the College Chef, for his economical processes enabling this great start.
The reunion was such a resounding success that it was overwhelmingly agreed that we should reunite in five years’ time. As one of the returning scholars stated, "We are now getting to the age where some of us may not be around in 10 years’ time or that in 10 years’ time we may not remember that we were ever here!"
There was so much sharing, discussion, reminiscing, comparing the old days with now. The College provided such an incredible backdrop with 1970s music, old photographs, memorabilia, publications and handouts enabling us to travel back in time to recollect with much love, laughter and appreciation of a life well lived.
We thank all the staff at St Catherine's for making this day so perfect from start to finish. Special thanks to Liz Constable – Chair of Council, Fiona Crowe – Head of College, Mandy McFarland – Director of Advancement, Brooke Peden a volunteer student, John Barley and Taufiq Zainal for their genuine interest, commitment and expertise.
Thank you, also, to Jan Rigden for her tireless work with the Facebook account. Due to the work of all at St Cats and the bon ami of all participants, I am delighted to say that I am now a reunion convert and am looking forward to seeing you all in five years’ time but preferably sooner! And I hope to see many more. Best wishes to you all as you travel along your life's journey.