Years of Determination: From College to Faculty (transcript - voiceover only)

As sailing ships brought new settlers to Australian shores, so too arrived drugs and poisons. Although no established process of sale, control and registration existed for these chemicals, from the 1840s onwards, Victorian chemists and druggists traded in Melbourne and in goldfield towns such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Maryborough. Anything from a respectable brick building to a tent served the medicinal needs of the burgeoning population. Victorian pharmacy was a blank canvas, lacking both legal and educational framework.

In 1870 the industrial chemist, Cosmo Newberry, began teaching general chemistry classes in the Industrial and Technological Museum, located behind the Melbourne public library.

In 1871 and 1873 respectively, chemistry teaching schools opened in the thriving gold-rush towns of Ballarat and Sandhurst.

In 1876, the Government of the new State of Victoria passed the Pharmacy Act, and The Sale and Use of Poisons Act.

In 1877, The Pharmacy Board of Victoria was formed to administer the new Acts and to oversee the chemists and druggists profession for the public’s interest.

Pioneer Victorian chemists and druggists, later to be known as ‘pharmacists’, imagined a pharmacy school modelled on those in Great Britain, involving apprenticeships and laboratory classes. Their determination for the profession to flourish was to be a constant in the future.

So, in 1878, frustrated by the delay, Society member John Kruse, began offering pharmacy classes at his home in Hanover St, Fitzroy, naming it the Fitzroy School of Chemistry and Pharmacy. Kruse taught elementary and practical chemistry, materia medica, pharmacy and botany, the subjects specified to be taught by the new Pharmacy Act.

By 1881, the school at the Museum also taught pharmacy subjects, and was officially recognised by the Board as The Melbourne School of Pharmacy.

In 1882, yearning for its own home, The Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria paid £400 for the old County Court building. Located at 360 Swanston St the new pharmacy school was ideally located in the heart of the city. John Kruse was appointed Foundation Director of the Melbourne College of Pharmacy.

The vision was realised. Finally the growing population of pharmacists had their own institution. The college’s scope also extended to teaching medical students and others who worked with chemicals.

Significantly, the building housed the offices of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria and the Pharmacy Board of Victoria. The co-location of these education, professional and regulatory entities would continue for 125 years.

With tenacity and solid foundations, pharmacy education continued at Swanston Street for many years. A new wing was added in 1913 and in 1920, the college appointed its first Dean.

And the next year, the college was renamed the Victorian College of Pharmacy.

Stan Sissons, former science master at University High School, passionately led the academia of pharmacy education in Australia for four decades.

Sissons’ presided over a time of great political upheaval, starting at the end of WWI and continuing through WWII. Delivering education was challenging with many staff, students and pharmacists recruited to the war. Dean Sissons and the profession closely supported the soldiers and their families.

Sissons wrote regular letters to the front line, and the many pharmacy casualties affected him deeply.

In 1942, The Pharmacy College Comforts Club was established to send parcels to serving pharmacists. Creams were made for the Red Cross, and Christmas gifts were sent to children of pharmacists who died in the war.

In 1943, with many men at war, Sissons asked academically gifted Miriel Witt, to lecture the students. Miss Witt was the first female member of staff.

After the war, Sissons sourced funds for training for ex-servicemen and women. They were preferentially accepted into college.

The 1950s and 60s brought new challenges. Everyday pharmacists were blindsided by the deluge of mass produced drug company products.

But apart from overhauling the curriculum, Sissons also wanted the facilities to be worthy of the craft.

Eric Scott, President of the Pharmaceutical Society, and his protégé, Nigel Manning, President of the Board formed the heart of the fundraising committee.

He was a former Victorian boxing champion, Essendon footballer, jackeroo and hotel keeper. He had a close relationship with Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria at the time.

For 25 and a half thousand pounds, The Pharmaceutical Society purchased land in leafy Parkville and construction commenced in 1958.

The Chemist Sub-group of the Returned and Services League was a primary donor to the War Memorial Building Fund.

The assembly hall was later named in honour of the Cossar family's generosity and service to the profession.

The Victorian War Memorial College of Pharmacy, as it was officially known, was opened in 1960, and the staff and students eagerly moved from the old building in Swanston St to the new building in Parkville.

New lecturers were also recruited with degrees higher than Bachelor, representing the beginning of the new academic approach.

In 1962, Sissons retired from his 42-year period as Dean, making way for Nigel Manning.

Manning sought grants and scholarships to allow research to proliferate.

After protracted negotiations and strong support from the profession, the college’s dogged resolve to advance further succeeded.

The Intersearch program represented the entry point for students from the College of Pharmacy to begin attaining PhDs from a range of universities.

Rapidly outgrowing the premises and needing research space, a Building Committee was formed, and headed by Alistair Lloyd. With remarkable generosity again from the profession, construction on the third building began.

In 1979, after many years teaching, Geoff Vaughan took the position of Dean.

In the late 80s, Federal Education Minister, John Dawkins, sought to rationalise tertiary education by amalgamating private colleges into Universities.

Geoff Vaughan had moved to another institution. This decidedly formative period came with great uncertainty, so the College sought a strong leader. Emeritus Professor, Tom Watson, from the University of Sydney was invited to be interim dean.

Watson’s understanding of the university sector would prove invaluable in the amalgamation negotiations.

In 1992, The Victorian College of Pharmacy and Monash University amalgamated. Retaining the Victorian College of Pharmacy name, it became the first stand-alone faculty of pharmacy headed by its own Dean in Australia.

Study and research in Pharmaceutical Sciences were becoming an increasingly important part of the faculty.

The Bachelor of Formulation Science and the Bachelor of Medicinal Chemistry began, reinforcing the crucial links with industry.

Over the years, the faculty had graduated numerous alumni who were staunchly committed to the profession. Connecting directly with these graduates was vital.

Yet again further infrastructure was necessary to support the growing local and international demands on the Faculty. And so in 2005, the first soil was turned in what had been for many years a staff car park and a student kick-to-kick area.

Higher education was increasingly in demand, so The Postgraduate Studies and Professional Development Unit was formed to consolidate and develop the existing courses.

The faculty’s research was drawing international attention. In 2008, The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences was established to design and develop better drugs. With strong connections to industry, MIPS drew pre-eminent pharmaceutical scientists together in Australia.

The Centre for Medicine Use and Safety was also formed for the increasingly important research into medication management and patient safety.

With plans underway to further develop the campus, the resolve of the college ancestors to champion the profession of pharmacy has been more than fulfilled.

The future of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has never looked brighter.