Trinity alum Margie Moroney has watched Trinity College grow and change from her time at College in the late '70s and early '80s to now, with her two daughters currently in residence. So, what's changed?
I entered College in 1979, the sixth year of women in residence. My family spanned three generations of ‘Trinity men’, since 1903. I know the bathrooms horrified my mother; they were unchanged from my brothers’ days, just the addition of a female sign. Female students had to pass some gruesome plumbing to get to the showers.
However, we were fairly unaware of the newness of the co-habitation arrangements. Perhaps at age 18, six years is a long time, and there were already some impressive female role models. Happily, there was zero fashion pressure – we all had similar, super daggy wardrobes. Cords, a denim skirt, desert boots and a rugby jumper. Before a ball, there’d be the whirr of sewing machines as we each whipped up some taffeta horror. We took barely any photographs. Of course, there was no social media, just post-mortems on the Bulpadock.
The students were a near monoculture drawn from Melbourne and country Victoria; perhaps women were the visible diversity back then for an old-fashioned institution. A slim handbook on ‘discipline and College rules’ made no mention of human relations. It was a pretty blokey, boisterous environment and we girls absorbed a fair bit of flak; you needed to become robust and find your niche. Sport helped me. We won in hockey and we ‘sheilas’ captured the Holmes Trophy. Perhaps the boys called the shots more than today, but those same blokes went on to become our staunchest allies, lifelong friends and partners, so maybe it was just the style of the times?
Occasionally we would make a stand. Drinking was rife, almost glorified, and we worried about a few friends in particular. One of the guys named our campaign ‘Girls Against Grog’ (GAG). It probably made no difference, but we’d tabled the issue, and we learnt that it’s important to speak up.
We have often discussed those days in hindsight. Some assert that they toughened us up, others were not so enamoured of certain behaviours. I went on to work in finance, where I was often the only woman in the corporate advisory department, on the board, or in the deal room. I wonder whether learning to navigate the rough and tumble of Trinity helped prepare me for that working world. Now I find myself the only older woman in similar situations. It’s no longer scary ... it’s fabulous.
I was followed into Trinity by four Moroney nieces and now my two daughters, Sara and Anna Watson. The culture seems much improved, with most challenges discussed openly. I welcome the code of conduct and consent training, plus the zero tolerance settings. I admire the emphasis on respectful behaviour and personal integrity. Back then, we were completely naïve to the experiences of First Nations people. Today, Trinity’s support for Indigenous students, and its embrace of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, gives me hope.
Working out who you are, and what you want to do, can be daunting, but rarely will you have such a medley of interesting and inspiring people around you as you have at Trinity. I lived in Upper Clarkes, which wasn’t exactly considered cool, but an upside was the proximity of a cohort of ‘darksiders’ – musos, poets and obscure scholars – who lived around Dorothy (the old version). They were fascinating and I would never have found them in the harsh daylight of the Bulpadock or on the footy field.
As new graduates, we lucked into a dynamic period of macroeconomic and social reform under the Hawke and Keating governments, and rode some big waves – deregulation of the Australian dollar and the financial sector, protecting the Franklin River, the passing of the Native Title Act. Amazing stuff. There are many new challenges to face now: environmental sustainability, community building, political integrity, human rights, clean energy, constitutional reform, virology and epidemiology, and more, and within all of them lies opportunity.
My best advice is to become part of the solution, that is the most inspiring place to be. Trinity’s values of social responsibility entreat its students to make a thoughtful impact on the world. I’m so enthused and strengthened by my daughters and their awesome friends. They show a wisdom and empathy way ahead of my 20-year-old self, and I can’t wait to see what they will enact.
I love the continuity of this College’s backdrop: so many amazing people have lived within the College’s buildings, followed the same traditions and pondered the same challenge: What will I do with this incredible head start and network?
By Margie Moroney (TC 1979)
This article first appeared in issue #90 of Trinity Today.