Free education: Audiology to Art

Margaret Blaszczyk

Margaret Blaszczyk has a lifelong connection with the University of Queensland. She began a Bachelor of Speech Therapy at UQ in 1976 as Margaret Bovey, during an exciting era of tertiary education in Queensland when repressive politics often led to the questioning of authority by many students. She joined the intimate Department of Speech and Hearing situated in an old house at 6 Rock Street, where lectures were held in the original lounge room. Being a part of a small cohort of mostly female students eased the transition from an all-girls school to university. At the same time, she describes being energised and possibly a little distracted by both the freedom from school rules and the ideological and cultural activities on offer at UQ in the 1970s. Although the first year of her degree involved some missed lectures and a few late nights listening to local musicians at popular student venues such as the Royal Exchange in Toowong, she went on to tutor and lecture at UQ after gaining a Bachelor of Speech Therapy and completing a postgrad Honours degree in Audiology.

Some of Margaret’s strongest memories of UQ involve the politically charged environment at the time. Student-led protests and demonstrations were often held at the university and off campus, usually in King George Square. These “Right to March” protests erupted in response to restrictions on protests in Queensland during the Bjelke-Petersen era, mobilising many students and others concerned with this infringement on their civil liberties. Despite police violence and many arrests, the ban was eventually relaxed due to the perseverance of the demonstrators. Margaret also remembers marching in support of increasing the student allowance, despite being unaffected by such payments as she still lived at home. In solidarity with her peers, she championed a cause she believed in, even though she would not benefit from it. A beneficiary of the federal government’s free tertiary education policy, she did not fully appreciate this privilege at the time, but now reflects on herself as very fortunate for having received it.

Margaret made use of the music facilities on campus, fondly recalling the music room under the Schonell Theatre, where students could select records to listen to through the use of communal turntables and earphones. In her first year at university, the community radio station 4ZZZ began broadcasting from UQ, encouraging the dissemination of local music and alternative politics over their airwaves. Concerts were regularly held in the refectory for students to enjoy. Scholarly highlights included visiting Cherbourg with the Queensland Aboriginal Hearing Conservation and Treatment Programme, the first initiative for Indigenous hearing health in Queensland, pioneered by her mentor and Dept. Head, Assoc. Professor Neil Lewis.

Margaret is involved in Book House, the Alumni Friends of the University of Queensland’s fundraising capacity, and is preparing for a biennial book sale to raise funds for prizes, bursaries and scholarships to assist students to reach their potential through tertiary education. This cause resonates with her lifelong belief in the value of education, as well as her interest in social justice stimulated by her early days at UQ. She sees her time volunteering as a way of giving back to the institution at which she received both free education and employment. Despite pursuing a career in Audiology in her earlier life, Margaret’s current interests include contemporary Art and Design, having studied towards a Cross-Disciplinary Art & Design Master’s degree at the College of Fine Arts at UNSW. She has also taken responsibility for the Art and Architecture section at Book House and is the Book House representative on the Alumni Friends UQ Executive Committee. Margaret has many family connections with UQ, with her sons, brother, husband and father all completing degrees there.

 

Margaret Blaszczyk, Speech Therapy/Audiology, 1979 (as told to Ruby Gannon).