“I was a real beneficiary of Davis and Jean McCaughey’s desire to increase women’s opportunities” says Liz Wilkie.

Liz joined Ormond College in 1973, as a student maid. “Davis McCaughey supported women who did not have the financial circumstances to be at college, by enabling them to live in college. He was very supportive of women at college.”

Liz studied medicine and her parents had agreed to pay for her to attend one year at a residential college, so she was resident at St Hilda’s during her second year in 1972. Liz enjoyed musical life through the Choral Society at Melbourne University, and while resident at St Hilda’s she was able to join the Ormond Choir and met Douglas and Joan Lawrence and other Ormond students.

“I became aware that there was an opportunity for people like me to be a student maid – where you had a room, took part in tutorials and were very much part of student life, but my parents didn’t have to pay fees. My journey was very much around ‘I would like to be at a residential college, but we can’t afford to pay the fees.’”

“As student maids, our role was to wait on tables at dinner. The maids had early dinner, then we set Hall, served the three courses, and cleared the dishes and tidied up afterwards. We were done and dusted by 7pm. We were also rostered on one day of the weekend, which included lunchtime as well. We also worked during the semester break. I can remember waiting on tables when they had the big Synod meeting discussing the churches becoming the Uniting Church.”

Liz had a room in the maids’ quarters, now known as Oval Wing, and remembers “a really positive atmosphere, and a supportive culture among the maids. We had fun.”

Liz and all the student maids were part of college life. Liz was on the ball committee, went to the JCR after Hall, and benefited from the tutorials for medicine students. “The ball committee was a lot of fun. We had booked this band for $50, then they had a big hit and we thought they would want more money. They were the Skyhooks.”

“I really enjoyed being in the Hall,” recalls Liz. “I had to be around at weekends, because of being a student maid, and I enjoyed sitting around the table and chatting with people. It was all about the friendships, happy times around social life and musical life. I felt very much part of the college.”

After her year as a student maid Liz moved into a share house, then funded her fifth year in Ormond’s Benjamin Street house with a student loan. In her final year Liz’s parents paid for her to go back to Ormond, and she was resident in the Main Building.

The student maid program continued in 1974, and after that the Master introduced the student service program. Liz comments that this was a really positive change, bringing a shift in student responsibilities.

Reflecting on her time as a student maid, Liz says “It was a real opportunity. I was very conscious of Davis and Jean’s support and the opportunity that we had. It was a big family. It was a very warm and inclusive environment. My experience as a student maid was absolutely of inclusion.”

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