I find The University of Queensland (UQ) campus in St Lucia remarkably pretty. Its unusual mishmash of sandstone and solar panels, wrought iron and succulents, and its dusky wattles and broad lawns all inspire in me a kind of warm nostalgia. This remains so even if walking through Forgan Smith makes me feel faintly sick (we can thank my law degree for that) and even though the campus’s springtime profusion of plumy jacarandas produces a similar effect.
This love has spurred me to curate a collection of stories that I feel evoke a strong sense of the St Lucia campus. As a reasonably young university in a young country, a sense of place is crucial to developing a strong sense of identity. Place shapes, and is shaped by the people who inhabit it. The names of several buildings belong to some characters in June McNicols short memoir. “You Two are Still Here Then” recounts the making of Courting Blakness, a ground-breaking exhibition that was custom-tailored to fit in The Great Court. It has in turn become part of The Great Court’s history and roots.
Places can also become symbols for people, as it was for Jenna Birbeck, whose first commute across the Eleanor Schonell Bridge marked a personal turning point.
The stories below all summon UQ’s geography through its myriad transformations and renovations. In so doing, they enrich our understanding of our university’s history, its changing facades, and most of all: its people.
1. “You two are still here then?” by Catherine Lawrence
2. The Eleanor Schonell Bridge, by Jenna Birbeck
3. My role in the early years of the Metallurgy Department, by June McNicol
4. Free education: Audiology to Art, by Margaret Blaszczyk and
5. Fizzers made me do it, by Hannah Towers
I hope you enjoy reading them.