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Content Writer at TAFE NSW

Sydney Technical College’s Ultimo Campus became the hub of activity for technical training in NSW and is now the largest TAFE College in the state

She’s the grand old dame of the neighbourhood and the proud matriarch of the family of TAFE campuses scattered right across the state.

She’s become a cultural and landmark icon in the precinct, along with the ABC’s Sydney headquarters, the UTS, and Central Station. And she’s just about to turn 125. How does she manage to keep looking so good?

Back in 1891 when Sydney Technical College (the former incarnation of TAFE NSW) first moved onto the Ultimo site, it was seen as a significant milestone in the College’s history. For almost six decades, the College had been operating out of rented premises at the School of Arts and other locations scattered across the city. The official dedication of the Ultimo site was the College’s first purpose-built home.

And what a home! Its principal buildings were designed by government architect William Kemp in the ornate Romanesque Revival style, which at the time was popular for churches, synagogues, universities and other grand public buildings. Features like wide, round arches, decorative plaques and squat columns and towers gave these buildings a strong sense of gravity and permanence. This is especially apparent with the stately proportions of Ultimo House (building A), Turner Hall (Building B, the former Sydney Boys High School) and The Muse (Building C, the former Technological Museum), three of the principal jewels in Ultimo’s crown.

The new Ultimo site meant that Sydney Technical College’s transient days of wandering were finally over. With their new home, the College adopted the motto – manu et mente, which means “hand and mind” or “doing and thinking” – a perfect phrase for what the College was all about.

Sydney Technical College’s Ultimo Campus became the hub of activity for technical training in NSW and is now the largest TAFE College in the state. It has consistently stepped up to the mark, generation after generation, to provide the vocational training needs of the population. After World War I, hundreds of returned servicemen received free training in a range of vocational occupations as part of their repatriation. Throughout the 1930s when the Great Depression was biting, hundreds of the unemployed gathered at the College on a daily basis to study, train and retrain. World War II saw the College transformed into a hybrid teaching facility, factory and RAAF camp, with funding from the Commonwealth Defence Training Scheme.

For information on joining the Ultimo 125th Anniversary tour taking place on the 16th August visit Sydney TAFE’s website.

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