Nursing courses commenced at Australian Catholic University (ACU) Ballarat Campus in 1988. The very first students graduated with much acclaim three fulltime, studious years later. Today at ACU’s Ballarat Campus, in the Faculty of Health Science, students are studying nursing and paramedicine at various levels; through undergraduate to doctorate. Much has changed since the first nursing course was offered. ACU has established itself as a well respected tertiary education provider in the Wimmera region of Victoria.
When the first nursing course commenced in 1988, ACU’s Ballarat Campus was known as the Aquinas Campus of the Institute of Catholic Education (ICE). ICE offered teacher education, theology and related courses throughout Victoria.
The transfer of nursing from a hospital based training mode to tertiary education commenced in Australia in 1985 and in Victoria was a gradual process. ICE commenced their involvement in nursing in 1985 by offering a three-year full time nursing course its Mercy Campus in Ascot Vale, another predecessor college of ACU.
Director of ICE’s Aquinas College, Barry Fitzgerald, negotiated with the federal and state government’s education and health departments, and also with St John of God Hospital Ballarat, to establish a nursing course in Ballarat.
The perpetual light gifted from St John of God Hospital Ballarat to ICE Aquinas, indicating the continuance of nursing education following Catholic traditions in Ballarat, still burns brightly in the University’s Pell Centre.
The inaugural head of School was Lorna Robertson, an optimistic and dedicated leader, whose philosophy and values gained significant respect at ICE and in the local community, establishing high expectations and standards. The community, especially employers, quickly recognised these qualities in ICE’s nursing graduates and this legacy remains apparent in ACU’s well regarded nursing graduates today. Students who completed their nursing course prior to 1998 may recall the earlier reunion celebrating 10 years of nursing at ACU Aquinas Campus, held in November 1998. The 25th anniversary of nursing at ACU’s Ballarat Campus reunion invites all graduates of the Faculty of Health Sciences to return to Ballarat to meet and celebrate with fellow past students.