Community engagement

Our 50th year was a 12-month celebration of the relationship between the University and our community. Our program of activities connected our community across dozens of events and engagements throughout 2015, drawing on our shared history and heritage.

We also introduced a range of new initiatives to build engagement with all of our stakeholders including students, alumni, education and research partners, generous donors and sponsors, Friends of the University and members of the broader community.

The number of individual UON alumni donors more than tripled in 2015. We would like to express our gratitude to the UON community for its wonderful generosity in supporting our students, researchers and community.

2015 key figures

  • 135,000 alumni in 121 countries
  • 250% growth in donor base
  • 20% increase in the number of externally funded prizes

In 1965, UON started with 1,700 students and 140 academic staff. Today, UON is a global institution with close to 40,000 students enrolled in programs in Australia and overseas, and 2,500 staff including researchers who are in the top one per cent in their field in the world.

Celebrate 50 launchCelebrate 50 launch

The 50th birthday celebrations were launched by the Chancellor Mr P.E. (Paul) Jeans and Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen using a 1965 Ford Thames truck as a recreation of an iconic image from one of UON’s 1960’s Autonomy Day parades.

Living Cultures - The Corroboree

The World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Accreditation visit was held at UON’s Wollotuka Institute. Over 200 community members attended the Living Cultures Corroboree, which celebrated the significance of the living cultures within the local Aboriginal community.

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Celebrate 50 Community Festival

Families and friends were invited to join UON’s Community Festival held at Newcastle Museum. More than 1,000 people turned out to enjoy the free entertainment, face painting, balloons, interactive workshops and demonstrations and of course, some birthday cake.

Our Community, Your University exhibition

This multimedia exhibition showcased the remarkable efforts of visionary leaders, notable graduates and generous community members in creating a world class university. Over 40 linear metres of archival images and footage revealed UON’s first 50 years, showcased over 250 outstanding alumni, and an interactive Futures Wall called on visitors to share their vision for the next 50 years. The exhibition spent time in Newcastle and the Central Coast and attracted more than 31,000 visitors.

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50th Anniversary Appeal launch and Gifted: 50 exhibition

UON’s 50th Anniversary Appeal saw a record number of donations made to benefit the Shaping Futures Scholarship Endowment Fund, which supports academically dedicated students who are facing significant hardship or challenges.

The launch of the 50th Appeal also celebrated the opening of the University’s Gifted: 50 an exhibition of artworks and artefacts donated to UON over the past 50 years. This included the donation of a rare Joseph Dall’Aglio violin by the Sisters of Mercy Convent at Singleton.

Staff reunion.jpgStaff Gala Reunion

Over 400 current and past staff came ‘back to campus’ for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate with friends old and new at the UON Staff Gala Reunion. Held at UON’s own Great Hall, guests dressed in their best with ‘golden jubilee’ accents and enjoyed a night of laughter, food, wine and music.

50 years of building strong communities

On 1 January 1965, the Governor of New South Wales proclaimed the University of Newcastle Act, marking the foundation of the University of Newcastle as an independent institution. This momentous occasion was the end of a long wait for our community, which had lobbied for its own University since the mid-19th century - and it triggered the start of a rich history that has built the University into the leading institution that it is today. In 2015, as we celebrated our 50th year, we remembered past and present milestones.


50 year anniversary


Number 1 University in Australia in both the QS ‘Top 50 Under 50’ and the Times Higher Education’s rankings of the world’s ‘Top 100 Universities under 50 years old’


Hunter Medical Research Institute’s $90.0m five-storey, 16,000m2 building officially opened after receiving funding from the Australian and New South Wales governments


Newcastle Institute of Energy and Resources is launched with the assistance of a $30.0m Federal Government grant and is supported by the New South Wales Government


UON Sydney opens its doors


Law on the Beach, free legal advice for the community commences


UON  commences delivering world class programs in Port Macquarie


UON Singapore campus established


Hunter Medical Research Institute was formed with the assistance of Federal and State Government funding


The Central Coast campus opened


Wollotuka began as a support program for Indigenous Australian students at the campus of Newcastle College of Advanced Education


The Faculty of Medicine was founded


UON’s Enabling Programs were among the first to show an alternative pathway to university education for people with ability and determination


Foundations laid for The Great Hall following the successful community ‘buy-a-brick’ campaign


The Colombo Plan scholarship was established by a group of Colombo Plan students from Singapore who studied at UON from 1968 within the then Faculty of Engineering


Autonomy Day (19 July) procession along Hunter Street Newcastle

Chancellors conference.jpgUniversity Chancellor’s Council Conference in Newcastle

UON hosted the University Chancellor’s Council Conference which was attended by Chancellors from 25 universities. The event provided UON with an opportunity to showcase the remarkable impact UON has had in the region and around the world.

Transforming Cities and their Regions

In September, UON hosted Universities: Transforming Cities and their Regions - a forum that brought together international and national leaders from higher education, industry and government to discuss opportunities and strategies for regional transformation and the catalyst role of universities.

International keynote presenters included Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor and President, Newcastle University, United Kingdom, Dr Tom Corr, CEO, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Canada, Ms Caroline Haynes, Director Magnet Cities, KPMG, United Kingdom and Professor Mark Nordenburg, Chancellor Emeritus, Pittsburgh University, United States of America.

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Public Lecture Program

UON’s Public Lecture Program forms part of the University’s efforts to contribute knowledge, thought-leadership and innovative ideas to the region. In 2015, the program showcased dynamic speakers through a number of community-focused talks across a range of disciplines and encouraged constructive debate on issues of regional and global relevance. Record numbers attended the series in 2015.

UON presented its newly appointed professors through a dynamic public lecture series, New Professors Talk. This series introduced new people in UON’s community and shared the knowledge and expertise of leading commentators and thinkers.

Morpeth Lecture

UON’s annual Morpeth Lecture provided a unique opportunity for more than 200 people to hear from world-renowned expert, Professor George J. Brooke, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, where he has taught Biblical Studies and Early Judaism since 1984. Professor Brooke presented on The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Authority of the Bible and provided guests with a private viewing of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Global insights.jpgGlobal Insights Series

Our Global Insights Series featured prominent thought leaders who shape, inform, and influence the world we live in. In 2015, Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, award-winning American bioethicist, medical oncologist, author and Special Advisor to the White House on health policy and architect of President Obama’s healthcare law - covered the topic, End of Life: Ethics, Dilemmas, and Decisions.

Reception at Parliament House, Canberra

Over 100 people gathered - from UON staff and students to Ministers, Shadow Ministers, MPs, Senators and Canberra alumni - in the remarkable setting of the Mural Hall in the Federal Parliament to celebrate our half century.

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UON Graduation Parade

Four hundred graduates paraded through Newcastle’s central business district, led by the Australian Army Band, commemorating the 130,000 students who have graduated from UON throughout its 50 year history. Over 3,000 supporters lined the streets of Newcastle to witness the parade and cheer the graduates on.

Singapore Alumni Donor Thank You

UON thanked its most generous Singapore alumni for their support of scholarship recipients at the Singapore Alumni Donor Thank You lunch. The event also launched the Dr Tan Chin Nam and Colleen Excellence Fund which was established through a generous donation from Dr Tan Chin Nam.

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Alumni Homecoming

UON celebrated 50 years of late night study sessions, of forging lifelong friendships and of flying mortarboards with its Alumni Homecoming - three days of reunions, events and festivities. Highlights included the Homecoming Great Debate, the inspiring Alumni Awards and ‘Back to the Bar’, the first alumni reunion concert at Bar on the Hill headlined by ARIA Award winners, Regurgitator.

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A Remarkable 50 Years - Singapore book launch

UON and the Australian High Commissioner hosted the launch of - A Remarkable 50 Years - a book produced by UON graduates in Singapore. The book documents the experiences of Singapore alumni as students of UON and is a record of the significant relationship between UON and Singapore. The book launch was attended by over 100 staff, students and alumni.

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50th Anniversary China Reception

UON’s 50th anniversary was celebrated with a reception in Beijing to acknowledge China’s contribution to UON’s milestone. The event was attended by 150 people and recognised UON in Beijing as a young, but high achieving institution. Distinguished guests included Presidents, Vice-Presidents, representatives from the Australian Embassy, Australian Chamber of Commerce, Heads of School and Professors from over 20 partner universities, research institutions and international schools including the Confucius Institute headquarters in China.

135,000 alumni in 121 countries

UON’s alumni community continued to grow in 2015. This great network of talented graduates, staff and friends remain connected through personal friendships, professional relationships and UON alumni chapters throughout Australia and overseas, including in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Alumni events were held across the globe throughout 2015 with a number of key events to mark UON’s 50th anniversary celebrations. One of the highlights in 2015 was the continued and generous support of the Singapore alumni who raised a further $180,000 through their 50th anniversary fundraising effort, the Golden Jubilee campaign.

The incredible support of the Singapore alumni was acknowledged and celebrated at the Business/Higher Education Round Table National Awards, where the alumni received an Honourable Mention in the Outstanding Philanthropic Support for Higher Education category.

The extraordinary efforts of Dr Peter Tay (Tay Buan Huat), who led and personally supported a series of peer-to-peer fundraising approaches resulted in more than $900,000 being raised for UON in less than eight years.

More than 400 people gathered at UON’s Great Hall, as part of the Alumni Homecoming, to celebrate the 2015 Alumni Awards, hosted by comedian and UON graduate John Doyle, aka ‘Rampaging Roy Slaven’. The Alumni Awards, presented annually by the Alumni Advisory Committee, recognise innovation, creativity, exceptional leadership and those who inspire others through their local, national and international achievements. In 2015, there were 30 finalists across nine categories. Read more about our 2015 Alumni Award recipients.

A year of support

In 2015 UON received unprecedented generosity from its supporters. The number of individual UON alumni donors more than tripled in 2015 thanks to the generosity of the UON community who supported our students, researchers and community work by giving through initiatives such as the 50th Anniversary Alumni Appeal, the Singapore Alumni Golden Jubilee Appeal and the Great Wall of China Walk.

UON also received a donation of $1.0m from two graduates to support the work of the University’s globally renowned Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE). The graduates understand the importance of education and the difference it made to their lives and felt compelled to assist disadvantaged children in accessing higher education.

The funds have been used to establish an endowment fund to support scholarships, as well as research and outreach programs enabling equitable access to higher education. This is the single largest donation received by UON.

Bequest Morning Tea

In 2015, we held the inaugural UON Bequest Morning Tea at Callaghan campus to acknowledge the remarkable difference bequest donations make to our UON community. A group of UON supporters attended and were treated to a special performance by UON student Lucy Knagg on the rare Joseph Dall’Aglio violin gifted to UON by the Sisters of Mercy Convent at Singleton.

Friends of the University Book Fair

The biennial Book Fair, made possible through the tireless efforts of the Friends of the University, offered over 500,000 books and 11,000 vinyl records for sale, with 20 rare books for auction. In 2015, $89,000 was raised with the proceeds supporting scholarships, prizes and special projects including the Shaping Futures Scholarship Endowment Fund.