uniVersity: Living in the ’70s

It’s been a hard day’s night

And I’ve been working like a dog

It’s been a hard day’s night

I should be sleeping like a log

But when I get home to you

I find the things that you do

Will make me feel all right

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night – 1964

Leo had completed two years of Teachers College before he was appointed to his first class at the age of 18. It was his intention to further his education by completing an undergraduate degree part time over a number of years. Meanwhile Joanne was continuing her third year of Teachers College by correspondence. She had the choice of another year on campus but the lure of a job that paid money was too much.

When she finished her third year, Joanne was inspired to start a degree as well. One of her fellow teachers was studying by correspondence through New England University, based in northern NSW. That sounded like a good option because she wouldn’t have to attend lectures. It did require a residential school in the holidays but that might be interesting. For three years she studied English, flying up to Armidale and staying in different residential colleges each time.

Booloominbah Homestead, part of the University of New England

She realised country NSW was very different to the city when she and a few others turned up at the local pub for drinks. The publican stopped them at the door of the bar and asked that the ladies to go to the lounge. Joanne and the other women were affronted.

‘We are living in 1975,’ said one, ‘not the Dark Ages.’

‘Well, you see,’ said the man uneasily, ‘it’s a university town and the local men and the students have fights over the women if they are in the bar.’

The following year when she was about to fly away, Leo said he would drive up to meet her and bring her home. She sneaked him into her room on the last day of the residential and they faced an uncomfortable night sharing a single bed. About eleven o’clock they both heard knocking and a scared voice calling out, ‘Go away’. It was in the same corridor as their room and it appeared that some males were hanging around a girl’s door and harassing her.

‘Do something,’ said Joanne. Leo wondered if he was ready to face a group of belligerent males, especially as he wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. He made his voice as deep as possible and called out, ‘Leave her alone or I’ll call the police.’

It seemed to have the desired effect as all went quiet. The next day they made their escape and drove the 600 kilometres back home (Australia had gone metric in July, 1974).

Leo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1975. Almost immediately he started a Masters of Commerce. Living close to the university was a bonus as he started tutoring as well. At times they felt they were rarely there for each other, that university was consuming their nights and work was consuming their days and they were just ships that passed in the night.

Joanne decided after three years to transfer to Wollongong University. After all it was just down the road. They gave her credit for her three years at Teachers College and her three years at New England University. She decided to specialise in Education, as she was a teacher after all. For the next two years she studied History, Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology of Education. She was given some time off school to attend lectures with a casual teacher taking her class. Her students benefited from her studies and experienced some interesting practical experiments which they enjoyed immensely.

Meanwhile Leo was working on his thesis. In 1979 he completed ‘Poverty in Australia with particular reference to the role of education as an anti-poverty strategy’. Gough would have been proud of him.

By the end of the decade they had finished their university studies, for the time being anyway. They had survived and thankfully were still together. The decade ahead would bring new experiences but probably nothing would match the stress of those last few years of the 1970s.