More than 120 years ago, Banjo Paterson described the Northern Territory as a “vast wild land, full of huge possibilities”.And he was right.So how did a relatively small population, spread sparsely across an area, one–fifth the land mass of Australia, with little educational resources to speak of, turn those possibilities into a reality?By creating a study environment where the freedom exists for people to evolve their lives.Today this environment is captured at Charles Darwin University (CDU).
The seed of CDU dates back to Darwin in the 1950s.With no offices or permanent staff, adult education classes in typing, shorthand and French were first conducted in school premises and taught by teachers working outside of normal hours.Darwin’s Adult Education Centre’s first full-time Principal Harold Garner brought tremendous energy to the role.On enrolment day the Centre resembled an ant’s nest, thriving with activity.It was the first institution to offer post-secondary studies in the Northern Territory.In March 1974 Darwin’s Adult Education Centre graduated to become the Darwin Community College.Nine months later, on Christmas eve, Cyclone Tracey struck Darwin, the college directly in its path in the maximum destruction zone.
The Darwin Community College was later known as the Darwin Institute of Technology.Talk of a university in the Territory had been brewing as far back as the 1950s.The objectives – to stop the brain drain south, conduct research into the Territory’s unique desert and tropical environments, and aid in development towards statehood.This would take another name change for the Darwin Community College.The Federal Government’s introduction of the Unified National System finally come to fruition in 1989, with the establishment of the Northern Territory University.There was one last merger, this time with the Alice Spring’s Centralian College in 2003, and one last name change to ‘Charles Darwin University’(CDU).
Territorians no longer have to send their children away from home for a University education. From this year (2011), students, for the first time ever, need not leave the Territory to become doctors.A five-star rating for research from the Good Universities Guide acknowledges CDU’s place on the world stage.Providing research that is helping to solve global challenges and close to home.There is no better example of this than the Menzies School of Health Research which is improving indigenous health outcomes in tropical and Central Australia.CDU is the only Australian university to offer the full spectrum of education options from senior secondary, through to VET, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.The Northern Territory community has responded to this with the highest per capita participation in Higher Education in the country.CDU continues to attract students from around the world. Currently, there are more than 22,000 students enrolled, including over 8,000 interstate and overseas.The University’s adaptive and altruistic culture has allowed it to not only survive but thrive in a changing world.