Two of the first female students at Gatton, Tessa Piagno and Anne Chamberlain returned to the campus for the Back to College Weekend.
Two of the first female students at Gatton, Tessa Piagno and Anne Chamberlain returned to the campus for the Back to College Weekend.
6 December 2011

In 1969, the female student population of the Queensland Agricultural College (now University of Queensland Gatton) was one percent. Today, it's 72 percent.

Five female students enrolled that year with two of these students, Anne Chamberlain and Tessa Piagno, recently returning to UQ Gatton for the annual Back to College celebration.

Rural Technology students, Mrs Piagno graduated in 1971 with a Diploma in Applied Science and Ms Chamberlain graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Applied Science.

"We were five females studying amongst 500 students. We definitely stood out especially at first as we tried to keep wearing our mini-skirts while climbing over fences. In the end we had to trade our mini-skirts for trousers," Mrs Piagno said.

"We weren't able to live on campus until our second year once Shelton finished being built."

The women spoke fondly of their time studying and living on the campus with both alumni agreeing that the heart of the campus remained the same.

"It's good to see the beautiful gardens are still here but there have been a number of changes – more modern buildings, they have removed the road that used to run through the middle of the campus and the dairy is in a different spot," Ms Chamberlain said.

"What I treasure most about my time here was the friendships I made, so many wonderful friends!

"From when I was studying here to working in the agricultural industry, being a woman has not held any difficulties for me and I think that it is a credit to the down-to-earth and genuine nature of the people who work in our industry."

Ms Chamberlain spent 10 years working for the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries as an animal husbandry officer and now works in rural writing and editing.

Mrs Piagno worked on a farm with her husband for 25 years and developed an agribusiness company selling mangoes, lychees, avocados, paw paws and chilli. She now works as a librarian but says she is interested in doing some more study in horticulture.

They said they were both hoping to return to the Back to College Weekend next year along with the other three first female students.

The Distinguished Past Students Award was presented to Mr Ray O'Grady at the formal dinner. Mr O'Grady graduated in 1964 with a Queensland Diploma in Dairy Manufactures.

Back to College Weekend is held on the first weekend in December of each year. The feature years this year were 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001.

For more information, click here.

Media: Erin Pearl on (07) 5460 1229 or 0409 265 587.