The Guild’s story is, of course, inextricably tied up with Curtin University’s—formerly known as the West Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT). Founded in 1960, WAIT opened on August 17, 1966 and shortly after the Student Guild was born.
In these formative years WAIT was focused on establishing itself as an institution and, as such, developing a sense of community would require time. Designed architecturally for development, the second stage of expansion at the Bentley campus included Hayman Hall, student common rooms, and a larger cafeteria—which provided a focus for student socialising. But the majority of students during this period were part-time, mature-aged students, and many others were already in the workforce or on cadetships that entitled them to “day release” study on campus. This made the concept of “community” difficult to identify amongst the bulk of students.
It was against this background that Dr Haydn Stanley Williams—WAIT’s Director from 1967 to 1979 - worked to establish a student union. In July 1967, the Management Board called a meeting of student representatives from each department to explain WAIT’s intention to delegate responsibility for the management of student facilities to a properly constituted student union. In September, a working party of six students headed by Assistant Director Harry Nash, with the assistance of Administrative Secretary Howard William Peters and Administrative Assistant Bob Gardiner, created an interim constitution.
There were a number of meetings in 1968, which resulted in the substantial modification of the constitution—including an amendment to give the School of Mines a seat on council, since they had initially been forgotten. On September 19th, then-Education Minister Edgar Lewis introduced legislation in the Legislative Assembly providing statuatory authority for the formation of a WAIT student body. However—reflecting his party’s abhorrence to the term “union”, which had unacceptable potential political overtones—Lewis forced WAIT to adopt the name “Guild”.
At the December 1968 meeting the institute Interim Council approved the Student Guild constitution which provided the establishment of a student council that could levy fees and two associated bodies—the activities council and the sports council. At this time, the first clubs were forming, including The Debating Club, Football Club, Dramatic Society and Rowing Club.
The following year, on February 11, a “Meeting of Guild Interim Council with Institute Officers” resulted in the first Student Guild taking office at 6.45pm—elected through the college system. The first Council included Tom Silvan (Guild President), John Booth (Vice President), Jamie Morley (Secretary), Kevin Collins (Treasurer), and Craig Smith (named the Editor of an unnamed student paper that would later be titled Aspect, and eventually become Grok—which is still operating today).
Silvan was particularly influential in the first year of the Student Guild since he had three primary priorities: binding together students separated on the Bentley, James Street, and Kalgoorlie campuses; promoting pride amongst students of WAIT; and obtain representation for students on WAIT councils and committees.
The Guild made rapid progress: a typewriter was ordered, a typist was advertised for, furniture was bought for their make-shift office which was located in what’s now the bookshop, and planning for the construction of a Student Guild Centre began while they worked to establish their voice on campus. The first Guild office was the Pharmacy reading room.
It was during these early days that Steven Drake-Brockman and Tim Dawe instigated George-James Week to unite the students across the three campuses in Perth—which Silvan described as “a week of student frivolity and bonding to rival the best that the [University of Western Australia’s] ‘Prosh’ could generate”. It became an annual event enjoyed with some trepidation by WAIT authorities.
From their office, Smith and his subeditors—John Clark and Kim Throssell—produced the first issue of Aspect with a print run of 5,000 copies.