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1964 student cohort 1

Our History

St Hilda’s has been an inclusive place of belonging for over 50 years – a community that pioneered access for women, and a leader in co-educational college life.

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Artist's sketch of the College in 1964


At the 1888 opening of our neighbour, Queens College, its Master, Dr E.H. Sugden, stated his hope to soon have a ‘hostel for women in these grounds’.

There were many attempts to set up a residential college for young Methodist and Presbyterian women heading to Melbourne for tertiary study but it was not until the 1950s that the idea came to fruition. A provisional council was established, and fundraising got underway, thanks to the generosity of women and men led by Lady Alice Paton.

Queen’s College donated the land on which St Hilda’s now stands. Our College was officially opened in April 1964 by then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, with academic and former diplomat, Mrs Marjorie Smart appointed as our first Principal.

In 1973 St Hilda’s was the first college at the University of Melbourne to welcome men and women. This was a fitting tribute to our namesake, St Hilda, who established a co-educational learning community in the seventh century.

St Hilda mosaic

St Hilda

St Hilda was born in 614 of noble birth, the daughter of a nephew of Edwin, King of Northumbria. She converted to Christianity at age eleven, and later became a nun. She’s best known as the founding Abbess of Whitby – a co-educational monastery.

Hilda was greatly respected by both religious and secular leaders and was particularly noted for her emphasis on the virtues of peace, charity and chastity. Whitby became a celebrated centre of learning, at a time when England itself was becoming renowned for scholarship.

Both the Abbey and the nearby town of Streanae Shalch were destroyed by Danish invaders in 787, but the Abbey was re-founded in 1067, before its dissolution in 1540.

A stone from the thirteenth century ruins of Whitby Abbey, where St Hilda founded the Monastery of Streoneshalh c.657AD, was donated to the College by the Whitby Urban Council. This rich piece of history is located at our College entrance.

Marjorie Smart 2

College Principals

1964 - Mrs Marjorie Smart
1976 - Mr Denis McMullen
1981 - Dr Brian James
1998 - Dr Michael Shortland
2000 - Mrs Barbara Green
2018 - Dr Brenda Holt

St Hilda's College
19-25 College Crescent Parkville VIC 3052 Australia.

St Hilda's College is a living community and residential college on campus at the University of Melbourne.

We acknowledge and pay respect to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land upon which our college is situated.  We pay our respect to all the Elders of Indigenous students who call St Hilda’s home.  We also acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of our community, the University of Melbourne, and the wider world.

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