ACU (Australian Catholic University)

Celebrating a golden era

Celebrating a golden era_CONTENT_wide Computer education at the Canberra Campus in 1983

As the Canberra Campus prepares to celebrate its golden jubilee, Associate Professor Carolyn Broadbent reflects on her time at the Canberra Campus. 

Next year ACU’s Canberra Campus will celebrate 50 years in higher education. 

Born during a time of phenomenal hope and vision for Australia, the Signadou Teachers’ College was officially opened on March 24, 1963, by Prime Minister Robert Menzies. 

Signadou College pioneered innovationsi n teaching and learning – preparing professionals for the ACT region and more rural settings. Over the years the Campus has undergone a multitude of changes, and since 1991 has formed part of Australian Catholic University. The Campus has now extended its programs in theology, social work, nursing and paramedicine.

Someone who has witnessed many of these developments firsthand is Associate Professor Carolyn Broadbent, Head of the School of Education in Canberra. 

When did you first join the Canberra Campus?

I started at Signadou College in 1983, when the campus was run by Dominican Sisters who lived on the upper floors. 

I was a lecturer in education with a wide range of responsibilities. I taught introduction to the classroom and the creative arts including visual arts, music and dance. But I also taught rural sociology so it was a rather mixed bag. 

I shared an office with dear Sister Rose. She was wonderful and I owe her a lot for my induction into the College. Our workloads were very heavy but Sister Rose and I worked together as a team and she was a tremendous support for many years. 

The office we shared was practically a storeroom, and in fact, it later did become the art storeroom. There were no external windows and the door opened into a lecture room – I learnt a lot from the lectures that were conducted in that adjacent space.

What has inspired you during your time at ACU?

What has been affirming for me in terms of my academic career and the quality of our academic programs has been seeing the development of our pre-service teachers over the course and beyond. The question of what’s really important in making a great teacher continues to surface.

From my observations over the years it’s not always the top academic students who go on to be the stars of the future; but the development or nurturing in some students of that ‘something else’ or ‘combination of characteristics’ that come together to make a special teacher. It’s a sense of empathy, of social justice, being passionate, open-minded and positive, and an approach that is underpinned by a strong set of values. 
How does the Canberra Campus of 1983 compare to today? 

The biggest change has been the transition from college to university and the formalisation of structures that come with creating a university; changes including the development of faculties, of policies and procedures, and an emphasis on research. 

A key change for me was witnessing ACU develop an expectation of a research profile. Some staff had been undertaking research for some time and, in the college system, they felt their work hadn’t really been recognised; they felt they were ‘swimming against the tide’. This changed with the formation of ACU and to see the University develop such a strong focus on research was really very pleasing.

What is it about ACU Canberra that has kept you here for more than 30 years? 

All institutions continue to change! Over the years, there’s been so much opportunity to participate in the change process and I’ve found it very stimulating because of that – in fact my PhD was about organisational change at ACU. 

In this university, there’s a strong focus on social justice and community, and that very much aligns with my personal values. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that by working through ACU to instil those values in our young teachers, we’re having a positive impact on the teaching profession and the young people of the future. 

Education really is the key for helping people to improve their circumstances and construct new pathways – it definitely makes a difference in people’s lives. 

What does the 50th anniversary mean to you? 

It’s a celebration of the achievements of the College and now of the University. I see it as an acknowledgment of the past and appreciation, through our collective memories, of those who have contributed much over the years. Personally, it’s a wonderful time to reflect, not just on the past but also on the exciting pathways for the future. There will always be a new chapter. 

The Canberra Campus will celebrate its jubilee anniversary on the weekend of
22 – 24 March 2013. Celebrations include the ACU graduation ceremony, and events for graduates and staff from the past 50 years. 

If you would like to be kept informed of the jubilee celebrations please email

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Page last updated: 16 Dec 2015

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