Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Thirty years of Wesley College Elsternwick

Posted 27 February 2019

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Wesley College Elsternwick. The story of Elsternwick Campus began in 1930 when a small private school, Cromarty, was leased to Methodist Ladies College (MLC), Hawthorn. This new school started with 40 pupils. In 1931 the future of the school was assured when the President of MLC Frederick John Cato purchased the Gladstone Parade property in an act of great philanthropy. The name Cato is commemorated on all Wesley campuses as an indication of the family’s generational support of the College. 

Over the years MLC Elsternwick grew and by the 1950s there were well over 500 pupils in attendance. In 1961 there was a momentous change – Elsternwick MLC became independent and was able to offer kindergarten through to Year 12. The 1960s were successful years but confusion about the two MLCs persisted. As a result, a series of name changes ensued when MLC Elsternwick became Cato Methodist Ladies' College (also known as Cato MLC) and finally Cato College.   

Elsternwick Wesley turns 30

The 1970s and 80s heralded significant educational change as evidenced at Wesley College’s St Kilda Road and Glen Waverley campuses, with a period of substantial physical redevelopment alongside an evolving curriculum. It was in this environment that Cato College merged with Wesley College, and the Prahran Campus welcomed Cato students to their Year 11 classes in 1989. Through that year, staff and students worked closely together with Cato College Principal Rev. Robert Renton who became Head of the Elsternwick Campus in 1989, with David Prest as Principal of the College.

The merging of Cato College into Wesley College created many opportunities to enhance the curriculum and grow the extra curricular programs. The former Principal Glen McArthur had a special affection for Elsternwick and he would champion many of the new facilities and programs, giving the campus, as he would say, ‘its place in the sun’. McArthur was passionate about music and today his name is memorialised through the McArthur Music School. Many former Elsternwick students have gone on to further their interest in the arts, including Hoang Pham (OW2002), celebrated pianist and winner of the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year.

In 1973, the German-born British economist E. F. Schumacher wrote a book Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered. Indeed, small is beautiful and people do matter. Tucked away in inner Melbourne, the Elsternwick Campus is a community with its own vibrancy and energy imbued with a strong sense of identity within the College. Elsternwick celebrates its history right back to its beginnings in the 1930s with displays of historical memorabilia, naming of spaces, badge wear, House names and more. Its former students are welcomed into the Old Wesley Collegians Association, which conducts regular reunions. Wesley College Elsternwick, with its students, teachers, parents and many friends, strives to be a welcoming and nurturing place. Happy anniversary. Sapere Aude.

Kenneth W Park, Curator of Collections

Top: Aerial view of Elsternwick students '30' formation

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