Churchill’s Tertiary Facility Turns 50

Churchill was chosen in 1969 to be the higher education facility for Gippsland. It was called the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education, GIAE or the Institute for short.

Technical and higher education had been available for students at Yallourn Technical School since 1928. It began as a cluster of three cottages and a laboratory but in time and with much lobbying and funding acquisition, the impressive building was erected and completed on the site in 1936.

However, demand for education was growing also so a new school was planned and constructed on John Field Drive in Newborough in 1957.

The name was changed to Yallourn Technical College to reflect the growing number of diploma courses on offer at both venues.

Following soon after, a push for more available tertiary education was made across Australia. New colleges of advanced education were planned so a greater range of courses could be offered. As Latrobe Valley had a large number of people involved in the coal and other industries, it was chosen and formed in 1968, and formally opened in 1970.

By the end of 1975 there were six courses, and the development of external studies for students throughout the region was called distance education. The architecturally designed building slowly began to be erected on this site which is surrounded by peaceful views of hills, gardens and the lake.

GIAE 50 years - 1976 - Buildings and Opening
Attribution - Federation University Historical Collection

The Institute was a source of employment for many local people. It also did a lot of research which focused on Gippsland and its issues. Local students, many mature aged, or part time had the opportunity to do advanced learning without having to go to Melbourne. Weekend schools were a feature.

In 1985, further funding for full time places was secured, giving Gippsland students the incentive to stay at school longer and go on to qualify for tertiary acceptance. Extra courses were added to the curriculum.

The iconic binishell was constructed in 1979, watched by many curious people including lots of school children excited to see the construction of this special building, which became the venue for graduation ceremonies of students and other community functions. Due to construction concerns it was demolished in 2009.

With the growth of the brown coal mining operations of the State Electricity Commission (SEC) in the Valley which used modern technology, Yallourn, the model town, was to be demolished to procure the coal under the town.

An amalgamation with Monash University saw the site renamed Monash University College Gippsland, with a further name change in 1993 to Monash University Gippsland Campus. Courses were expanded, PhD students were accepted, research was done, postgraduate studies and honours courses were offered. International students arrived and off-shore teaching was instigated.

The university’s main aim was education with a focus on Gippsland for students of Gippsland.

That led to another amalgamation in 2014 when Monash and Ballarat University combined. The new university was called Federation University and aims to have students learn course which will enable them to help their regional businesses and economies. This is particularly important in the Latrobe Valley with the phasing out of coal.

A large gathering of people attended the special event to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Leigh Kennedy Deputy Associate Vice Chancellor, Engagement began proceedings welcoming those present and thanking them for coming.

Mr. Simon Hood gave a welcome to country.

Mary Aldred a well-known alumni was the guest speaker. Congratulations and a motivational speech were offered. “Take each opportunity that our regional facilities and their partnerships have to offer, front up and contribute to solve problems, lean into the challenges, focus on what is going to make the most progress, be accountable, respectfully disagree with one another, be flexible, humble, adventurous and kind” she encouraged, “ so the best outcomes for our area are achieved.”

GIAE 50 years - People
(L - R) Past Staff, Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Duncan Bentley, Leigh Kennedy, Mary Aldred

A video presentation of the history of the university was shown, documenting the campus history.

University Vice Chancellor and President Professor Duncan Bentley spoke. He spoke of the special relationship which has developed with our Aboriginal First Nations people and how that is valued.

The connections with industries and health support networks is very important as that is driving the types of courses needed and instigated for this area. Skills are being learnt for future energy growth with many jobs on offer. Scholarships are being offered. Students can stay close to home, saving time and money. An attendance of 93% of students from local areas shows the value of this. This, it is hoped, will stop the brain drain to Melbourne or the world. There are certain criteria where HECs fees are waived. There are many opportunities and much support offered to students.

The university has a global reach with international students welcomed to learn and take back their knowledge.

A FedUni degree is as valid as any other university in Australia. There is close collaboration between universities and shared expertise. Professor Duncan enthusiastically celebrated our wonderful diverse region. He finished by saying the past has grounded the university for a very bright future which is in good hands. We can contribute, co-create and deliver our courses for useful partnership.

A new display board was unveiled which shows more of the history of the campus before an excellent afternoon tea was taken. There were about thirty past alumni who sat for a photo. Others who had worked there had a lovely time catching up to renew friendships and reminisce. It was a special celebration.

GIAE 50 years - Alumni
50th Anniversary Alumni