The University of Western Australia

Reflection Pond - How many students does it take to dig a hole?

How many students does it take to dig a hole?

The University Archives are home to all manner of sources that combine to bring stories of the past to life. Documents, photographs and even voices in the form of oral histories can paint a picture of long forgotten dramas, such as the one surrounding the construction of the University’s reflection pond.

It was 1932, and the grand opening of Winthrop Hall was scheduled for 11am on the 13 April. There was just one problem…the University was forced to acknowledge that the reflection pond, designed to showcase the elegant design of the building, would not be ready in time.

It didn’t take long for this information to filter down to the student body. In heroic fashion, these students, predominantly men from the Engineering and Science Faculties, offered up their labour. Frank Gamblen who was a student at the time remembers that, under the direction of the Engineers, the students “did all the hard work of digging and laying cement, while the Faculty of Arts, which was composed almost entirely of women, provided us with morning and afternoon refreshments.”

The pond was completed just hours before the opening and was filled with both water (despite the cement still being wet) and water lilies (that may or may not have been ‘borrowed’ from Queens Gardens). Of course it was drained immediately afterwards to allow the cement time to dry, but the grand opening ceremony of UWA’s Crawley Campus was saved!