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3. FRANKSTON TEACHERS’ COLLEGE – 1959 TO 1973

THE SITE AT FRANKSTON – A HOUSE NAMED STRUAN

The land on which Monash University’s Peninsula Campus was built is first mentioned in the Frankston rate books of 1896–7. The land was owned by Mrs Jane Unthank, a local identity. The property was subdivided and changed hands three times before being purchased by Mr Rudolph Werner of Richmond in 1920. A new house was constructed in 1924 in the Edwardian Arts and Crafts style, popular in the 1920s. Werner owned the house until his death when it passed from his estate to Escort Rudolph Werner on 16 February 1945. The title then consisted of 17.5 acres.

Dr Frank R Vincent purchased the house and land from Werner’s estate in January 1951 and named the property Struan. Dr Vincent, who worked at the nearby Frankston Hospital, owned and occupied the site until he offered it for sale to the Education Department in 1957.

POST-WAR MIGRATION, THE BABY BOOM AND THE NEED FOR MORE TEACHERS

R J W Selleck, education historian argues that post-war forces, especially the migration policy which contributed to the population explosion of the late 1940s and 1950s, changed Australian education drastically (Selleck 1998: 205). Don Garden (1982: 181) also notes that the 1950s and 1960s ‘saw an enormous growth in the Victorian education system’ because of the Commonwealth immigration schemes, the affluence of the community and the mounting demand for higher qualifications. The post-War baby boom had its greatest impact between 1951 and 1961 when the number of Victorian primary school pupils increased from 205,888 to 301,514 (181). The demand for teachers overtook supply; the Education Department was unable to produce enough teachers. Classrooms, sometimes with up to sixty students, were full to overflowing. Something had to be done quickly and it was this overcrowding that the Education Department acknowledged.

In response to the demand for primary teachers, in 1958 Coburg College was planned for the north-west of Melbourne and Frankston was chosen as the location for a college in the south-eastern suburbs. This location was chosen because of the availability of training schools in the area, the likely enrolment of students from the area, the distance from the railway, and the possibility of improving and developing the site. Consequently, after some negotiation, the Education Department took up Dr Vincent’s offer of his property which consisted of an 11-roomed house and a 4-roomed cottage set within 17 acres, 3 roods and 27 perches of land on the corner of McMahons and Hastings Road (Monash University Archives). The property was acquired on 8 October 1957 for £37,500. A further seven properties were acquired at an additional cost of £18,316, making a total purchase price of £55,816 (Monash University Archives).

FIRST APPOINTMENTS 1958

Advertisements for the first Frankston Teachers’ College positions were placed in the Education Gazette and Teachers’ Aid on 22 May 1958. They were for the positions of: Principal, Lecturer Grade 1 (man) Lecturer Grade 1 (woman) and two positions as Lecturer Grade 3 (man or woman).

On 24 July 1958, Mr Warwick Eunson, BA, B.Ed., TPTC, Lib. Reg., then lecturer at the Melbourne Teachers’ College (MTC), was appointed Principal of the newly created Frankston Teachers’ College under the Teaching Service Act 1946. His annual salary was set at a rate of £1675 per annum (VPRS10536/P/0000 Unit 19).

The first four appointments to lecturing positions were made on 17 October 1958; they were Alwyn H Fry of Burwood Teachers’ College, Gertrude F Kentish of Geelong Teachers’ College, Thomas J Dignam of Toorak Teachers’ College, and George W D Boyd of Bendigo Teachers’ College. The male Lecturer Grade 1 position earned an annual salary of £1550; for Lecturer Grade 3 the rate was £1320–1550, while the salary for a female Lecturer Grade 1, £1320, reflected the policy of paying women around two-thirds of the male wage. Women were also required to resign from the Education Department when they married, though by the 1960s they were enticed back into the classroom because of the high demand.

The 11-room house, Struan, was quickly adapted to become lecture rooms, staff rooms, offices and a library. Plans were made to build a college from the ground up.

A COLLEGE IS CREATED

On 1 January 1959, Warwick Eunson and his nine staff members officially began working for Frankston Teachers’ College. In just six weeks, Eunson and his staff had finalised the curriculum and timetables and negotiated teaching rounds at the chosen local schools. Quite a feat in such a short space of time! On 12 February they welcomed their first 109 students.

The excitement of the new venture for both staff and students can still be felt across the distance of nearly 50 years. Archival documents, newsletters and the student publication, Struan, record this excitement. The Principal produced a pamphlet which was given to each student on their first day. Simply titled, Information for Students 1959, it formed his official opening address to both students and staff. Here he spelled out the situation the new college faced:

This little booklet is planned to welcome you to the college … You have joined this year a group of some 1,400 young people like yourselves, beginning this year in Teachers’ Colleges at Melbourne, Toorak, Burwood, Geelong, Bendigo or Ballarat, all well-established colleges, or in the two new colleges at Coburg and your own Frankston. It is a great adventure to be in “at the start” of a new institution, and to help build its traditions. Your staff feel this way about this college, and ask you to join them in this task, so that you will be proud to say “I trained at Frankston.”

Eunson went on: conditions were far from ideal because of the limited space, extra-curricular activities such as sport were as much part of the experience as study, and these activities were in the hands of the Student Representative Council (SRC). Lecture timetables were set out, details of the five training schools the students would later teach at were documented, the date of fortnightly payments was provided, as well as hints on dress and behaviour. These were formal times; men were addressed as ‘Mr’ and women as ‘Miss’. Former staff members also recall that men were discouraged from wearing a beard and women should not wear red!

As the year progressed, both staff and students were actively engrossed in the College and their work. An emblem, the Seahorse, was chosen for the college. This emblem has endured and remains part of the fabric of the University, commemorated in the naming of the Seahorse Tavern. By May design and tender documents for the construction of a new building were advertised and construction began mid-year. In December 1959, a college Welfare Association was inaugurated following a meeting of 200 parents and citizens. It was the first association of its kind connected with a Victorian teachers’ college (Struan, 1960: 22).

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Figure 2 Seahorse
Monash University Archives, MON 1206 Frankston Teachers’ College Yearbooks

One aspect of working as a teacher in Victoria was the right to become part of a teachers’ union. The Victorian Teachers’ Union was established in 1926 with a membership of around 5000. In 1946 the VTU established the Victorian Teachers’ Tribunal whose purpose was to fix wages, salaries and general conditions of employment. In 1948 the secondary teachers broke away and in 1953 formed the Victorian Secondary Teachers’ Association (VSTA). In 1959, the Victorian Teachers’ Union (VTU) was by far the largest and most influential professional teaching association in Victoria. An article advertising the Union in the 1961 Handbook advised that the Union then had 16,000 members and that 100% of staff and the present second year students at Frankston belonged to this Union. Of the 76 graduating students of 1960, 75 elected to join the union.

The Teachers’ College Handbook 1960 reported on the College’s first year of operation. Courses available at Frankston from 1959–78 were the Trained Primary Teachers’ Certificate (TPTC) and Trained Infant Teachers’ Certificate (TITC) (available only to women). Successful completion of these courses enabled students to be selected for courses in specialised teaching, such as the Trained Special Teachers’ Certificate, Art and Craft Teachers’ Certificate (Primary), Teacher-Librarian’s Certificate, Home Crafts Certificate or, for selection to the Secondary Teachers’ College at the University of Melbourne. Entry into this course also enabled students to enter the University.

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Figure 3 First students and teacher outside Struan, 1959
Monash University Archives, MON 1026, Frankston Teachers’ College Yearbooks

Classroom training was an essential part of the course, and training schools accessible to the college increased from 5 in 1959 to 14 in 1960. After only one year of operation, both teaching staff and enrolments at Frankston more than doubled, from 24 and 252 respectively; this pattern of growth continued for the next twelve years. Frankston Teachers’ College was growing in leaps and bounds. In December 1960, the first graduation ceremony took place.

STUDENT LIFE 1959

Accepting a teaching bursary in 1959 from the Education Department and a place at one of the six teaching colleges meant students were bonded to teach in the Victorian State Education system for three years. While conscious of their commitment to the Education Department and other possibilities available to them, student life, as Warwick Eunson and subsequent Principals insisted, meant more than study. In 1959, a Student Representative Council (SRC) was elected. Struan, a student publication, was inaugurated and editors elected. The magazine was published at the end of each year prior to the summer break.

The first edition of Struan, published in 1960, documents the College’s first year. The editor, Peter Hart, the Principal, staff and students, all contributed to the first edition. The editor reported on the formation of the first SRC, progress on the construction of the first building, social functions – including the ‘Miss Frankston Teachers’ College’ award – the music club, library club, ‘Fossickers Club’, a trip to Central Australia and other events. The magazine also included poetry, reviews of sporting activities, and reflections on a teaching round. Reading the first and subsequent editions of Struan conveys a strong sense of community within the Teachers’ College: this sense of community is palpable through the words and the images on the page.

The 1950s and early 1960s, coming as they did before the storm of student protests and activism of the late 1960s and 1970s, are often seen as a period of student conformism and quiescence. The 1954–5 Labour Party split had devastated the Australian political landscape and in 1960 the Cold War was still heating up. Some of the students at Frankston Teachers’ College were worried by government censorship of teaching and literary journals as well as novels and films. While groundbreaking research into children’s learning frequently appeared in educational journals from the United States and the UK, some of these were censored documents and government permission was required to access them.

In the 1960s Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita and D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover were banned by the Australian government; these censorship laws were addressed by a student, Margaret Reynolds, in her Struan article entitled ‘Censorship’:

In a country which values freedom of speech, the banning of any book, even the most obscene, is a direct blow against that liberty to express any opinion. Intellectual liberty and artistic liberty are mere empty phrases while the censor stands between the writer and his public (Struan, 1961: 4).

This particular article was not censored by the printer. However, as the editor, Max Gillies pointed out four articles, to be published in February 1962 – ‘The real world of kids’, ‘Humour in the classroom’, ‘A view to death’ and one poem were substantially altered or deleted by the printing company, Standard Newspapers Ltd. In the final proof of the magazine, the printer left one page blank which enabled Gillies to attach a supplement outlining the exclusions from the original article. E J Trait, Governing Director and editor of Standard Newspapers, wrote indignantly to the Director of Education explaining that ‘two items were deleted by us because of their blatant obscenity’. He continued:

We appreciate the fact that University students publish matter sometimes which is “blue” but we felt when handling “STRUAN” that coming from a seat of learning where adolescents were being trained to be teachers, obscenity and blasphemy should not be featured. After all, these people are training to be teachers, and the minds of little children will be under their control. Those at Frankston who are responsible for this type of journalism are quite unfitted for the task. I am sure you will heartily agree with the view (VPRS 10536/P/0000 Unit 19).

Correspondence continued for a couple of weeks, until Trait backed down. In the meantime, Gillies was called before the Principal of the College and the Director of Education. He recently reflected upon the incident, saying that, while he was aware the Director General theoretically had the ability to exercise his power over Gillies’ career as a teacher, ‘I argued my point and stuck to my guns’ (Gillies, 27 April 2008).

BUILDING A PLACE IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

The ongoing business of teaching and attracting new students continued under the leadership of Warwick Eunson until 1962 when he was appointed to the role of Vice Principal at Melbourne Teachers’ College. In the same year the newly constructed student Hostel (built 1961) was occupied by 120 students and plans for the extension of the College were underway. Student enrolment had escalated to a staggering 425 with 34 staff – a more than three-fold increase of both students and staff since 1959. Construction of the lecture block and physical education blocks were also underway in 1962.

A new Principal, George A Jenkins, BA, BCom., BEd., MACE, TPTC, was appointed Frankston Teachers’ Colleges Principal in 1963. He took over the leadership of the college, and saw student numbers increase from 425 in 1962 to 750 prior to the College’s new status as State College of Victoria at Frankston in 1973. At the same time, staff numbers had increased from 34 in 1962 to 69 in 1970. The courses offered were TITC and TPTC. Jenkins is commemorated in the naming of the George Jenkins Theatre.

The new Principal, in his Foreword to the 1963 Handbook, continued Eunson’s theme of reminding students that their experiences at Teachers’ College would be ‘many-sided’ and advised that ‘perhaps the greatest challenge faced by students entering a tertiary college was to ‘use their freedom wisely’ (Handbook 1963: 1).

During the decade 1963–72, primary teaching colleges introduced a three-year Diploma of Teaching (Primary) and the TPTC and TITC courses were phased out. In 1967, writing in the student magazine, Struan, Jenkins heralded changes to the College that included the new three-year TITC course with its provision for major and sub-major subjects and time for independent reading and study. Other changes were occurring; teachers were to be given time to prepare lessons during the school day, and there was to be less emphasis on assessment of teaching and more on guidance and advice. This marked the beginning of a review of the teaching program by the College’s Advisory Committee. The 1967 edition of Struan reviewed the year, showcasing student creativity, and contained poetry, short stories, reviews of the musical theatre productions staged during the year, sporting events, art and literary awards.

The College was changing physically by 1972. Landscaping and planting of native trees and shrubs began to transform the Frankston site. A small area of original bushland was preserved and enclosed as a native flora and fauna reserve, named ‘Yarriambiack’. A large sculpture by Art Lecturer, Owen Piggott, in Mt Gambier stone was created and placed at a focal point between the College and the Hostel; and a welded-metal wall sculpture by Ted Moran was placed at the College entrance. These sculptures, Jenkins believed, symbolised the opportunities offered by the College for students to work creatively and take an active part in the many-sided student life (Handbook 1972: 1).

Still Learning

   by Fay Woodhouse