Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
December 2007 Issue
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60 years of inspiring students


Because of the growing numbers of students from overseas, you might be forgiven for thinking that accommodation for university students has become a major issue only in recent years.

In fact, accommodation for students has been an important issue in Adelaide since the University of Adelaide was established in 1874.

In the University's early years, it was an even bigger issue for female students.

Sixty years ago this year, St Ann's College in North Adelaide opened its doors, providing residential and academic support to female university students.

Now in its diamond jubilee year, St Ann's has been celebrating a long history of excellence in inspiring and supporting students irrespective of gender, race and creed.

In 1881, the University of Adelaide was the first Australian university to admit women to academic courses, but accommodation was extremely hard to come by for many women who travelled from the country or interstate to study.

In the 1930s, a group of like-minded women, including Dr Helen Mayo, Dr Violet Plummer, Dr Constance Finlayson, and Lady Pauline Grenfell Price, hoped to find a solution to the accommodation problem.

"If you were a female student coming from the country, unless you came from a family of means or had relatives in the city, your accommodation options were extremely limited," said Dr Rosemary Brooks, Principal of St Ann's College.

"So there was a clear need, and those strong, visionary women thought: 'This is no good, we've got to give them a hand'."

Dr Violet Plummer approached Sidney Wilcox for help. Mr Wilcox had no wife or children and had built a house on Brougham Place, North Adelaide. He bequeathed his house so that a residential college for women could be formed.

Originally established in 1939, St Ann's College did not officially open until 1947 because of the intervening war years. There were 16 residents in total in 1947, including women returned from war service, some of them having lost husbands or boyfriends in the war.

Today, St Ann's College accommodates 185 student residents, has 56 academic tutors and 10 residential tutors. Since the 1970s it has been co-residential, accepting students from all three South Australian universities.

St Ann's is an entirely independent and private, not-for-profit college, with no church, university or government backing. More than half of the residents are from rural South Australia, with more than a third from interstate and the remainder from overseas.

Dr Brooks, who herself is a former resident of St Ann's, said the college has built up a strong reputation over the years. It has a zero drop-out record and an exceptionally high pass rate among its residents.

"We have a lot of repeat business," she said. "This year, 36 of our students have had a relative at St Ann's. We also have a third-generation student this year."

Many great names have been residents at St Ann's. For Dr Brooks, one stand-out name is University of Adelaide graduate and anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott, who was awarded the inaugural Australian Peace Prize last year.

"Helen Caldicott is a stand-out for me because she's so courageous. She's had an extraordinary career," Dr Brooks said.

"Individuals can make a difference, and St Ann's has a world-wide, big-picture view. We constantly strive for an ethical underpinning for our students. 'Consideration for others' is our mantra. Our students go into the community with a strong sense of the need to contribute."

For more information about St Ann's College, visit:

Story by David Ellis

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St Ann’s College Principal Dr Rosemary Brooks (centre, front) with the college’s 2007 tutor group – representing rural and regional South Australia, interstate and the world – at a cocktail party at the Adelaide Town Hall in celebration of the St Ann’s College diamond jubilee

St Ann's College Principal Dr Rosemary Brooks (centre, front) with the college's 2007 tutor group - representing rural and regional South Australia, interstate and the world - at a cocktail party at the Adelaide Town Hall in celebration of the St Ann's College diamond jubilee
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