2010s to 2021: Centenary, super-centenary and beyond

Emmanuel’s centenary in 2011 was celebrated throughout the year by the College community. Alumni embraced the chance to reconnect, with reunions held in Toowoomba, Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne and as far afield as Hong Kong and New York. The Centenary Weekend from Friday 9 to Sunday 11 September teed off with a golf day followed by a barbecue in the quad. Students, staff and alums kicked-up their heels at Saturday night’s Centenary Gala Ball. Emmanuel’s traditional Founders’ Day Service and Lunch, an annual event to give thanks for the College’s founders and benefactors, included the installation of three Honorary Fellows.

The appointment of Honorary Fellows to the College was established in 1959. Individuals, usually alumni but also from the broader College community, are recognised for their outstanding service or contribution to the life and work of the College or contribution to academic, ecclesiastical, public or professional life. The three Honorary Fellows installed in the centenary year certainly fulfilled the criteria — two 1970s alumni from either side of the political fence: Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer The Hon Wayne Swan MP, and Federal member for Groom and former Howard government minister The Hon Ian Mcfarlane MP; and distinguished theologian, past President of the Uniting Church in Australia, and former Emmanuel College Council member Reverend Professor James Haire.

2011 Honorary Fellows ceremony: (from left) Emmanuel College Council Deputy Chair John Fenwick, The Hon Ian Mcfarlane MP, Governor of Queensland Her Excellency Penelope Wensley AC, Emmanuel College Principal Professor Stewart Gill, The Hon Wayne Swan MP, Reverend Professor James Haire

Building on the increased participation, support and success in the cultural arena throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Emmanuel’s cultural life flourished in the [20]10s (the jury is still out on this decade’s moniker; linguists seem to favour “the tens/teens”). From Art Show to Bandfest, Choralfest to Chess to College Idol, Debating to Dancefest, and One Act Play to Oratory, Blue Dogs excelled in the Inter-College Competition.

In 2013, following first-place rankings in Debating, Chess and Dancefest, Emmanuel won the coveted ICC Cultural Cup. Amelia Bell, 2013 Emmanuel College Students’ Club Cultural Convenor, said:

“I could not be prouder of, or more grateful to, everyone involved [in the] year of fun and frivolity, strange dancing and wonderful people, exhaustion and creativity. … Thank you all for the special moments — your smiling faces and energy at rehearsals, even when they went until 2am; the immense amount of support and encouragement you have all shown each other; the fun we’ve had; the pride we’ve felt, whether we’ve come tenth place or first.”

This was the first of four ICC Cultural Cup wins throughout the decade, with Emmanuel also bringing home the trophy in 2016, 2017 and 2019 (though that year Emmanuel tied for first place with great rival St John’s College, and the cup spent half the year with the Blue Dogs and the other half with the Jabbas).

Emmanuel’s Debating and Chess teams enjoyed multi-year winning streaks, both taking out seven premierships over an eight-year period.

2015 Debating team celebrates four wins in a row: William Roughan, Crispin Scott, Luke Metherell and Ryan Minuti

The 2016 ICC Cultural Cup victory came on the back of a clean sweep of the three most heavily weighted competitions: Bandfest, Choralfest and Dancefest — #allthefests. Dancefest is the final event in the ICC cultural calendar and each year the performance sees around 100 of Emmanuel’s students costume, choregraph and dance their hearts out. The Alice in Wonderland-themed Dancefest performance in 2016, involving almost half the student body, was a crowd favourite.

The triumphant Dancefest 2016 troupe

Many talented musicians and singers have called Emmanuel home, and the back-to-back Choralfest victories by the Emmanuel choir in 2016 and 2017 and the triple-triumphs in 2016/17/18 for Bandfest reflect our students’ incredible efforts and outstanding musical gifts. Whether in big wins or narrow losses, they are always spurred on by the cheers of Blue Dog supporters.

Emmanuel College band – Bandfest 2018 winners

Service and servant leadership — as exemplified by the College’s founder, Reverend Dr Ernest Northcroft Merrington — has been in Emmanuel’s DNA since the beginning. Students volunteer their time and raise funds and awareness for environmental, animal welfare, health and social justice charities and causes. Do It in A Dress, Leukaemia Foundation, RSPCA, Wilderness Society, Endeavour Foundation, World Vision, Cancer Council, Youngcare, Amnesty International, Salvation Army, Beyond Blue, and Starlight Foundation are just some of the organisations supported by Emmanuel students over the years.

Emmanuel students Do It In A Dress to educate girls in Africa

In July 2019 our students’ commitment to service broadened further, going international with a two-week service trip to Samoa. In a spirit of teamwork and generosity, the seventeen-strong group undertook multiple rubbish clean-ups, taught waste management and conservation to primary school children, and planted 500 native trees. ECSC Community Service Coordinator Lateisha Stam was heartened to learn that change is occurring very quickly in relation to environmental issues in Samoa: “We discovered how beautiful Samoa is, how lovely the people are, and how distinctly different the culture is from ours. It truly was, as clichéd as it sounds, an experience that changed perspectives, attitudes and lives”.

Samoa service tour 2019

The annual Bannockburn Dinner recognises students’ service within the Emmanuel and wider communities and also upholds the College’s Scottish traditions. The laddies wear kilts and the lassies wear sashes (in Emmanuel’s very own official tartan), and the traditional piping in of and address to the haggis is a highlight. Students who have served one another and given back to the community are commended with awards such as the RA Busch Memorial Prize and the DM Fraser Bursary. These awards for outstanding contribution to the College community are named, respectively, in honour of Principal (1962-78) Rollie Busch and Douglas Fraser, who was a member of the College Council for an extraordinary 47 years including Chairman for six (1944-49). Douglas Fraser was also a founding member of the Society of St Andrew of Scotland, long-term supporters of Emmanuel who sponsor the award and help students in many ways.

Students at the 2018 Bannockburn Community Awards Dinner

Reflecting increasing awareness and acknowledgement of the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion, Emmanuel College continues to evolve. The College is committed to reconciliation and making a positive and lasting difference in the lives and livelihoods of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we connect with. Our initiatives are detailed in a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which is being assessed by Reconciliation Australia with the aim of receiving formal endorsement by the end of 2021.

Flags in the dining hall – equity, diversity and inclusion

Staff members are accredited members of the UQ Ally Network, providing support and a safe space for gender, sex and sexuality diverse people at Emmanuel, UQ and the broader community. In 2019 Emmanuel was the first residential college in Queensland to appoint a student officer to support LGBTIAQ+ students. Jordan Knight was the inaugural Gender and Sexual Diversity Representative, a position he held concurrently with that of Christian Convenor on the student leadership team. The Gender and Sexual Diversity Representative provides representation, information, referral, advocacy and support for identifying-students and any students who want support with issues surrounding gender and sexuality. Emmanuel’s respectful relationships principles support young people to develop healthy intimate partnerships with a specific focus on informed consent. Put simply, our aims are for all Emmanuel students to feel safe and respected and to provide a nurturing community for everyone.

Equity also involves gender equality. As an all-male bastion for its first 64 years, Emmanuel had a slow start in terms of female leadership. The first female ECSC President, Nicola Hutchinson, was elected in 1991. Gender parity was ultimately achieved from 2011 through to 2020. Emily Anderson-James’s election as President in the centenary year was the first of five women voted in as President in that ten-year period. This decade also saw Emmanuel’s first female Principal with Dr Jane Thomson leading the College from 2018 to 2019.

Principal Dr Jane Thomson (2018-2019) and 2019 Gender and Sexual Diversity Representative Jordan Knight with Emmanuel’s Pride flag

The early years of Emmanuel were marked by (in Merrington’s words) “a struggle with circumstances” as the world faced the Great War. We are all now waging a different kind of war — one against the Covid-19 global pandemic. In March 2020 — as universities moved to online learning, social distancing became imperative, and fears and uncertainty over contagion, sickness and mortality increased — Emmanuel was partially shutdown. Ninety-two per cent of our students returned home to their families. The 27 remaining students dubbed themselves the “The Leftovers”. Principal Stephen Peake, who was appointed in January 2020, praised the efforts of “this resilient bunch [who] continued life at college, building new bonds, maintaining old traditions and revising some”, such as a scaled-down Emmanuel Ball with food-truck pizza for dinner.

The Leftovers Emmanuel Ball, June 2020

Our students returned in semester 2, eager to reconnect with their Blue Dog family and committed to the new Covid-safe way of life at College. They enthusiastically embraced the adapted programs of sports and cultural activities and enjoyed formal and social events, alfresco style, in Emmauel’s beautiful central quad. Academically, they reapplied themselves: 100 students had a GPA of 5+, 83 had a GPA of 6+, and 9 students attained straight 7s – great achievements in trying circumstances.

2020 Valedictory Dinner in the Emmanuel quad

Emmanuel has borne witness to massive social changes and upheavals in its history; throughout all, the College has prevailed and evolved. In 2021, after 110 years, Emmanuel’s affiliation with the Presbyterian Church came to an end. Our important relationship with the Uniting Church continues. Deeply respectful of our heritage, we understand that the College and the world are very different from that which our founders knew. Even so, their vision to create a place which seeks to enrich the life of every student in the College through a world-class living and learning experience endures. From just five in 1911 to a remarkable 345 in 2021, Emmanuel’s students continue to thrive and grow in all respects — academically, socially, in sport, culturally, in community service and personally. Looking to the future with resilience and adaptability is the answer for our students and, indeed, for us all. Even as we reach the privilege of a super-centenary, Emmanuel, like the young people who are at the heart of the College, must remain ever young.