Katrina Watson and Diana Tapsall moved in to Picken Court in 1973, as part of the first group of women residents at Ormond.

“I had spent my first year at Women’s College over the road and that was a pretty old-fashioned place to live,” recalls Katrina, who joined Ormond as a second year student. “They had a curfew at night, and dress codes and all sorts of very restrictive things. And I didn’t really enjoy that. I had a lot of friends in Ormond, in medicine, and you could see what a wonderful life they had. So, I was one of the first on the doorstep when they opened the doors to women.”

Diana came to Ormond straight from school, and for both women the transition to a co-ed college was straightforward. “We both felt it was completely normal. It was very integrated, and it was no big deal. There was a remarkable lack of fuss,” says Diana.

Women were very much in the minority in that first year of co-education at Ormond, but both Katrina and Diana remember a relatively seamless transition for the College. Initially bathrooms were allocated for women and for men, but this system quickly fell apart as the students preferred the pragmatic option of using the closest bathroom.

For Diana those first weeks at College and University were fun – an optimistic time at the start of adult life. “It was Australia in the 1970s. It was a very confident and carefree time.”

The Students’ Club had led the move to co-education, with the full support of the Master, Davis McCaughey. Katrina joined the General Committee in 1974, becoming the first women on the committee in the era of co-education (women had played a role on the GC before co-education). “GC meetings were always entertaining. Sort of like practice for the big grown-up world outside as well. You learned about meetings, taking minutes and how to get things through.” She remembers the meetings as often very funny, with memorable tongue-in-cheek motions on the agenda.

The smooth transition to co-education reflected the Master’s approach, and the attitude of the Students’ Club. “The Master, Davis McCaughey, was such an influence, and we were affected by the way he went about things. He was a role model, at a distance. He was quite influential. You didn’t want to let him down,” says Diana. “The Vice Master, John Henley, was such a decent person,” adds Katrina. “And he had the difficult job of discipline.”

Diana remembers her induction to the Students’ Club. “It was in the Junior Common Room. It just so happened that I was the front of the line for the induction ceremony and I remember thinking, ‘oh, I’m the first woman and it wasn’t that I was setting out to be.’ So that’s the only time I probably recognised that there was something momentous about it, but it was only that glimpse. But it was never a big deal.”

“We were so fortunate to have had that Ormond experience,” says Katrina. Diana and Katrina’s stories from their first year at Ormond reflect the exuberance of students embracing new friendships and opportunities, and both take a no-fuss approach to having been in the first intake of women residents. “We just felt lucky to be there, and lucky to be at Melbourne University.”

Share your Ormond story

Are you an Ormond alumnus? Where has life taken you and how has your College experience shaped your future path?