The University of Western Australia this week celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Act of Parliament which established the first free university in the British Empire.
The University of Western Australia Act was given Royal Assent on 16 February 1911 and established a University to ‘advance the prosperity and welfare of the people'. Its founding father Sir John Winthrop Hackett was a passionate advocate of free, accessible education.
At a dinner to mark the occasion tonight, UWA graduate and former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke will officially launch the publication 100 Treasures from UWA: Celebrating 100 Years. Writing in the book Dr Hawke said "I am grateful to UWA for having opened doors for me that might have otherwise may have remained closed".
The University will celebrate its centenary more fully in 2013 - marking the 100th anniversary of the first classes comprising 184 students in a collection of wooden buildings in Irwin Street, Perth.
UWA has produced many famous graduates including Dr Hawke, many Federal and State politicians including current Premier Colin Barnett, the Western Australian Governor Dr Ken Michael, leading businessmen Dr Michael Chaney and Sir Rod Eddington, artist Shaun Tan, comedian and musician Tim Minchin, soprano Sara Macliver, Australian High Court Chief Justice Robert French, Ambassador to the United States of America Kim Beazley, Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall, sportsman and coach Ric Charlesworth and novelist Gail Jones.
Chairman of the Royal Commission on the establishment of the University, and its first Chancellor, Sir Winthrop Hackett is credited as being UWA's founding father. He was also part-owner and editor of The West Australian newspaper and a member of the Western Australian Legislative Council.
Hackett's intention was that UWA would be an asset to the community, addressing the needs of the growing State. It was also the Commonwealth's first free university, its purpose being, in Hackett's words, ‘the higher education...for the sons of the people'.
Then Premier and Colonial Treasurer of Western Australia, Frank Wilson, introduced the legislation to the Legislative Assembly on 24 January 1911 and it was officially passed about three weeks later.
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716