Bendigo celebrates its long-held thirst for knowledge

(An engineering drawing class at Bendigo School of Mines in 1916)

A major event in Bendigo will mark an important milestone in the educational history of the city, with hundreds gathering to celebrate 150 years of tertiary education on Friday 21 April. A commemorative book, Memories and Milestones: Tertiary Education in Bendigo 1873-2023, published by La Trobe University Library, will also be launched.

The academic procession

An academic procession, beginning at The Capital and concluding at Bendigo TAFE’s MacGillivray Hall, will honour the vital role higher education has played – and continues to play – in the life of the city and the community.

La Trobe University and Bendigo TAFE have joined together to lead the celebrations, which will include alumni from antecedent institutions as well as from the University and TAFE.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said the academic procession through the city was a chance to reflect on how important education has been in Bendigo since its inception.

“Ever since 1873, when the Bendigo School of Mines was established, higher education and the pursuit of knowledge has been part of the cultural fabric of the city,” Professor Dewar said.

“Higher education opens so many doors, giving people at all stages of life the opportunity to pursue their passions and enrich their own lives and the lives of the whole community, both economically and socially.”

Bendigo TAFE Board Chair, Margaret O’Rourke, said the TAFE was proud to be part of Bendigo’s rich educational tradition.

“Those original foundations that were laid in 1873 have, through many generations and prior entities, incrementally forged the programs and facilities that we so proudly celebrate today.

 “For 150 years our two institutions and predecessors, have created educational and career opportunities for the region and we are still committed to that today. This is a fitting tribute to our staff and students, both past and present, as we look towards the next 150 years.”

Dr Penny Davies AM is a founding member of the Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation and has chaired the board for the past 25 years.

As we commemorate 150 years of tertiary education in Bendigo, I see 2023 as a year of story-making, story keeping and story sharing,” Dr Davies said.

“An opportunity, as we come together during the celebrations, to make new stories about tertiary education, to reflect on our personal experiences during our time at the various institutions and to share the value of tertiary education its past, present and future.”

Institutions that laid the foundation of tertiary education in Bendigo include the Bendigo School of Mines, Bendigo Teachers’ College, Northern School of Nursing and the Bendigo College of Advanced Education.

Commemorative book: Memories and Milestones

As part of celebrations, a book – Memories and Milestones: Tertiary Education in Bendigo 1873-2023 – will be launched on 21 April. This beautiful 220-page book is a collection of colourful recollections from 26 contributors, spanning staff, alumni and members of the community, with Lauren Mitchell as lead writer and interviewer. Among them are stories that document social revolution, such as through queer alumni who can be traced back to the 1890s; and pay homage to Bendigo Technical College’s first computer, ‘Fred’, who in 1967 cost the same as 10 new homes; and remember legendary O-week high-jinks.

To purchase copies of the book (RRP$75, plus $15 postage), please email Natasha Doolan: Copies will also be on sale at the Bendigo Writers Festival. 

150 years fundraising campaign

To tie in with the celebrations, La Trobe University and Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation (BTEAF) are launching a fundraiser with the goal of raising $150,000 to continue providing long-term assistance and funding for local students, so that no one need miss out on a tertiary education. More information about the campaign can be found on our website.

Community: We encourage community members to join in the celebrations on Friday 21 April, 2pm by viewing the procession as it moves through town and cheering on any family and friends taking part!


(Bendigo TAFE CEO Sally Curtain, Board Chair Margaret O'Rourke, Board Member Anne Brosnan and Head of Campus Dave Richardson at the 150 Celebrations Launch Event with La Trobe University.)

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