University of Melbourne Magazine

The Student Union through the years

  • 1884:
    The first Melbourne University Union is formed, for staff, students and graduates. The president is John Elkington, Mebourne-educated professor of history and political economy, and bon vivant. Membership was voluntary. The Union gains rooms in the western wing of the Quadrangle.

    The Princess Ida Club, for women staff, students and graduates, is granted rooms in the eastern wing, and becomes the most active of the 19th-century associations.

    The Union establishes city rooms on the corner of Little Collins and Swanston Streets.

    Recreational Grounds Committee is formed to manage a compulsory fee for students for the maintenance and improvement of the University grounds. The fee had been lobbied for by a Sports Union formed in 1904, through a Students Representative Council.

    A new Melbourne University Union is formed to take possession of the former natural history museum constructed in 1882, which had housed the Conservatorium of Music over the previous decade. With a small grant, it is renovated and becomes the Club House, with a staff of caterers and stewards.

    More space is made in the old museum by the addition of a YMCA hut used during the war.

    William Bryden, from the University of Edinburgh, is appointed Warden of the Union. He manages the Union, promotes other activities and supports students.

    After a 10-year fundraising campaign, the Club House is rebuilt establishing Union House. The modern architecture of the new building is an extension of the old museum, which is retained in order to save costs. The new building includes a theatre, a gallery of pictures and a non-academic library.

    Robert Hatch is elected, the first student chairman of the Union. All previous chairs were members of staff. Staff establish a separate club, University House (1952), and the Graduate Association establish rooms in Leicester Street.

    The Melbourne Theatre Company is formed out of the Union Theatre Repertory Company, which had been established in 1952. The Repertory Company became renowned for its first productions of Australian plays.

    Union House is again renovated and extended. Almost all of the museum building is dismantled in order to create a large basement, the building is given a new unadorned elevation, and a central tower is erected.

    The George Paton Gallery is established.

    The Melbourne University Union is reconstituted as the Melbourne University Student Union, an independent association managed by students, combining the Union and the SRC.

    A receiver is appointed to liquidate the Union. Out of the crisis the University of Melbourne Student Union is formed, with financial oversight from a University body Melbourne University Student Union Limited.

    The University announces plans for the creation of a New Student Precinct, that will incorporate the Student Union.

    Urban design framework and heritage assessment of Union House site commissioned.