On May 4, 1911, a group of young graduates of the University of Melbourne met to establish an alumni association, a group that would welcome postgraduate students of all disciplines, backgrounds, ethnicities and life stages.
They called it the Melbourne University Graduate Association.
The chairman was a student named John Monash, who would go on to become one of Australia’s best known war commanders. Also present that day was Helen Sexton, just the third woman to graduate from Medicine at Melbourne University, who would play a key role in setting up the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children. Another founding member was a future Prime Minister – a young Robert Menzies.
As each of these students pursued their own destinies, the association they had established also continued to flourish. In 1957 the Graduate Union purchased Gladstone Terrace – a series of seven terraces in Carlton which soon become Graduate House, a residential college set up exclusively for postgraduates, welcoming a diverse group of graduates from universities across the world.
During the 1970s a further three terraces were added, thanks to benefactor Stella Mary Langford – an English teacher and Head Mistress also known as an astute investor. Ms Langford, a graduate of the University of Melbourne, is said to have been passing by Graduate House one day when she was drenched in an unexpected storm. The warden invited her in to dry off, offered her a cup of tea and an umbrella before she went on her way. It’s said she was so impressed by the Graduate Union and the kindness offered, that she made provisions for it in her will.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Graduate House continued to expand, with the purchase and redevelopment of further property. But for residents it was the sense of community spirit and the possibility of lasting friendships that made Graduate House a home.
By the 2000s a larger and more modern residence was necessary, and so the new Graduate House was opened, with function rooms, a bistro and state-of-the- art kitchen.
Today Graduate House remains a dynamic and exciting place to live, learn and meet new friends. Here, postgraduate students find security and friendship in a nurturing environment. Residents describe breakfast time at graduate house as a “small United Nations” – a place where diversity is celebrated, and everyone is family.
Sixty years after its inception, in 2017, Graduate House launched a campaign to fund construction of an 11-storey residential building. With 136 new rooms, this will double the accommodation available, and continue to expand on the Graduate Union’s rich legacy as Melbourne University’s only graduate-only college, providing a home for graduates from all corners of Australia, and the world.
Illustrated by Alice Lindstrom