“It was a bit of luck – having a surname starting with ‘A’ – that led to me being the first-ever graduate of the Canberra College of Advanced Education,” says Edward “Ted” Antoney.
“That – and the fact that I did a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting.”
The year was 1973, and Ted and his fellow graduates were celebrated at the CCAE’s inaugural graduation ceremony. The CCAE went on to become the University of Canberra in 1990.
“I’m not sure of the exact number, but there were probably about 100 graduates in that first ceremony – and about 30 accountants in the whole lot,” Ted says.
Fast forward 50 years; this September, UC is marking the milestone of 100,000 alumni.
For Ted, that’s an indication of the trust the community – including his own children – have in UC.
His son, David, graduated from UC in 1993, with a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communications Engineering (“I remember we came up for the graduation,” Ted recalls to David … “I remember how proud your mother was.”)
Growing up in Mackay, Queensland, Ted went to primary school in Sybil Creek and received a state scholarship at the time – but the nearest high school was a six-hour round trip from home, by train.
“Besides, my parents couldn’t afford it,” he says. So Ted went on to work at a local sugar mill, at one time becoming the youngest qualified sugar boiler in the country, aged just 16.
He then joined the Air Force and later, the Australian Public Service. “I had done the leaving certificate at the Canberra Evening College when I joined the Air Force – but I realised that a leaving certificate would only get me so far,” he says.
So, Ted signed up to study at the CCAE in 1969 – and remembers a time when the institution was just a single building, surrounded by paddocks.
“There were probably about 300 students at the CCAE, the year we first moved onto campus,” Ted says.
His entire cohort was part-time, juggling studies with work and in Ted’s case, a young family.
When the full-time students joined in 1973, the number jumped to about 2,000.
Ted won the then-equivalent of a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) and finished off his degree as a full-time student, allowing him to finish in four years instead of the usual five for part-time students.
“As a full-time student, I still spent my time as if I was going to a job – I went to the Library at 9am, spent all day studying and doing assignments, and then went home at 9pm, to have some time with the family,” he says.
Ted remembers his days at the CCAE with great fondness – he still has his original framed testamur, which he donated to UC, and which now occupies pride of place in Vice-Chancellor Paddy Nixon’s office. He also kept the original graduations booklet from his ceremony.
“My time at the CCAE definitely helped my career – the accounting degree was widely recognised, and so we were able to go out into the big bad world after graduating and make a name for ourselves,” he says.
“Doing the accounting degree allowed me to go six rungs up the ladder in the Public Service, at the time. Most of us did fairly well out of our CCAE degrees!”
Ted went on to an illustrious career in his field. He worked with the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which advises on the distribution of federal funding to states and territories, in a bid to drive equity.
“It was very interesting work, I really enjoyed it,” Ted says.
He also went on to work with the Postmaster-General’s Department, a forerunner to the contemporary Department of Communications and the Arts, and spent 11 years at the Department of Defence, where he worked on a five-year development plan and other projects.
“I then moved to the Department of Education to work on a forward planning program there, before moving to the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education in Queensland, where I was the Business Manager,” Ted says. “That would go on to become the University of Southern Queensland.”
In every role he occupied, Ted applied a future-focused perspective – he enjoyed enacting a quiet systems revolution to get things working better.
“Even when I was working at the sugar mill, I got qualified a lot younger than most of the other sugar boilers – I had a flair for change early on. And the CCAE just helped me realise that even more,” he says.
“My time at the CCAE also instilled a sense of discipline – if you wanted something, you had to work for it, put in time and effort – and that’s a great life lesson.”
Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, video by John Masiello, photos by John Masiello and from the University of Canberra archives.
This September, the University of Canberra celebrates the amazing milestone of 100,000 alumni.
Our warmest congratulations go out to this year’s graduating class, and to all the amazing alumni who have become part of the UC community.
Many of you have already made such an impact in your fields and in your communities; many more will go on to do so.
We wish you the best and look forward to your amazing future journeys.