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Monash University > Publications > Monash Magazine > 50 years at Monash

Foundation years

Monash University was created by an act of State Parliament in 1958. It was the first new university to be established in Victoria in 106 years.

Right from the start, Monash was given a clear bold direction unconstrained by tradition. The Minister at the time said:

"Our desire is to establish a university which will be recognised as being of a world-wide standard. Where there is a true desire to pursue knowledge … it will not suffer itself to be confined within narrow channels and that character will … produce the finest men and women."
- Mr J.S. Bloomfield, Minister for Education,
second reading speech of Monash Act, 1958

The University - named after noted Australian Sir John Monash - grew rapidly in size. The first intake of 347 students at the Clayton campus in 1961 had grown to more than 7000 students just six years later.

The Menzies building under construction.
Photo credit: MONPIX

Early students recall a sense of progress, both intellectual and physical, as teaching and research facilities were built around them. First graduate Dr Richard Cashman said: "Monash was just a few buildings among what seemed like lots of open land."

Monash University has continued to expand in quality and reputation over the decades, the Clayton campus becoming a thriving social, cultural and intellectual hub for generations of students and academics.

The 1990s was a decade of physical expansion. Campuses across Victoria, in Caulfield, Peninsula, Gippsland, Parkville and Berwick were established in the four years starting 1991.

In 1998 Monash began its bold expansion overseas, establishing a campus in Malaysia, then South Africa three years later. A centre in Prato, Italy was also set up. Collaborations with some of the world's best universities have also been established.

robert blackwood hall
Photo credit: MONPIX

From a single greenfields campus with less than 400 students, Monash has grown in 50 short years to a network of campuses, centres and partnerships across the world.

This is the world of Monash University, a world true to it's official motto Ancora Imparo. Attributed in Michelangelo it means, "I am still learning".

It's 1958 and…

What other events occurred in the world in the year Monash University was established?

  • QANTAS international services commenced on 14 January, flying eastbound from Sydney to London via the US in five and a half days and westbound via India and the Middle East in six and a half.
  • The US Space program began with the launch of the nation's first ever satellite 'Explorer 1', which was built in just 84 days and weighed only 14 kilograms, on 1 February at Cape Canaveral Airforce Station.
  • The first electronic computers, branded 'the NEAC 1101' were built in Japan by NEC in March. The computers were invented by Eiichi Goto, a postgraduate student, in 1954, and were designed for scientific and engineering calculations.
  • Johnny O'Keefe had his first hit with 'Wild One' recorded with his band 'The Deejays'. Released by Festival, it was the first Australian rock recording to reach number one on the national charts following its release in March.
  • On 11 May, Australia's biggest manmade lake, Lake Eucumbene, on the Eucumbene River in the Snowy Mountains of Southern New South Wales was completed.
  • student protest
    Photo credit: MONPIX
  • On the 7 August in Dublin, a New World Record was set for the one mile dash. Perth-born Herb Elliot achieved a time of 3 minutes and 54.5 seconds.
  • The ANZAC Day Act 1958 received Royal Assent on 30 September, making ANZAC Day, (25 April) a national public holiday in Australia.
  • The US Congress formally created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 1 October. At the time NASA had approximately 8,000 employees and an annual budget of $100 million.
  • Australian Antarctic explorer and geologist, Sir Douglas Mawson, died on 14 October at the age of 76, after being one of the first to reach the South Magnetic Pole on 16 January 1909.
  • Baystone, a six year-old bay-coloured gelding, won the Melbourne Cup. It was the 97th cup since 17 horses ran in the first Melbourne Cup in 1861 at Flemington Racecourse.
  • Australian car manufacturer Holden produced its 500,000th car, a 2.15 litre 6-cylinder Holden FC, of which 191,724 were produced.
  • After winning the first ever televised Australian Federal Election, on 22 November Liberal Sir Robert Gordon Menzies started his fifth term as Prime Minister of Australia.
  • The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), a national training institute for students of theatre, film, and television opened on 11 December. The institute enrolled its first 23 students the next year.
  • Inspired by a bouncing ball, American physicist William Higinbotham created the first computer game called 'Tennis for Two'. Higinbotham created the game initially to entertain visitors to Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked.
  • Gordon Gould, a doctoral student at Columbia University, came up with ideas on how to build a device that could shoot a narrow, intense beam of light. He also came up with its name, the 'laser' - or Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers, he envisioned at the time, could be used for welding, cutting or heating.
  • Without knowing each other, and developing their ideas separately, Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby co-invented the integrated circuit, or 'microchip'- an invention that was able to contain entire networks of components in a single crystal (or 'chip') of material.
  • Part of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1958 was won by 33-year-old Joshua Lederberg for his discoveries concerning the organization of the genetic material of bacteria.