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'Ursies' began its life as Ursula College, officially opened in October 1968 by Malcolm Fraser, then federal Minister for Education and later Prime Minister. Established by the Ursuline Order, the College at first was an on-campus residence for women, with visiting hours for men, but it soon became co-ed in the 1970s! The College was named after Saint Ursula, patron Saint of the Order which was founded for the education of girls and for the care of the sick and needy by Angela Merici in Brescia, Italy, in 1535. The Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser re-visited Ursies in 2012, giving a talk and joining with residents in a Q&A conversation.
While the College was sold to the University and became Ursula Hall in 2004, life at Ursies continues to value much of its founding purpose and ethos - a close community of care; respect for one another; academic support and intellectual engagement; good all-round involvement in social, cultural and sporting activities; and a fun and friendly living and learning experience. Our motto remains "The Truth shall set you free" and this very much relates to the University's motto "First of all, to know the nature of things".
Among some notable alumni are New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell (a former President of the Ursula Residents' Committee), CEO of the Australia China Business Council Ms Martine Letts (former Australian Ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and CEO Australian Red Cross), and Justice Stephen Gageler of the High Court of Australia. In recent years, special dinner and discussion guests have also included Nobel Laureate in Physics (and Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt; previous ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Young; former Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Professor Michael L'Estrange; and Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General David Hurley.
In 2010 a new wing of Ursula Hall, the Laurus Wing, opened for 200 graduate and undergraduate students. The residents in Laurus Wing are entitled to all of the amenities in Main Wing including at least one meal per week in the Brian Francis Dining Room. Residents from Laurus Wing and Main Senior Residents, help to build a connected and supportive community especially among our many international residents.
Green and white are the traditional colours of Ursuline educational centres. The gold colour represents the gold on the Chancellors gown. They are the colours all Ursies representatives wear when competing in any activity for the Hall. Our badge has on it the laurel tree - a traditional association with Saint Ursula. In Ancient Greece the victor in the Pythian games was given a wreath of laurel leaves. The ancients believed that the laurel communicated the spirit of prophecy and poetry. They had the custom of putting laurel leaves under their pillows at night to acquire inspiration! Our hope at Ursula Hall is that people will be both energised in the task of prophecy, in order to critique society, and reflective in the task of poetry and artistry in order to find new, creative expressions for our society.
In contrast to the earthiness of the laurel tree, we also have the Southern Cross constellation. In the northern hemisphere you can see the Ursa Minor, or "Little Bear", constellation. This is the origin of the Bear as our mascot. The Ursa Minor constellation is the pointer to the Polar star. In our part of the world, the Southern Cross guides us at night. Stars communicate an expansion of vision and of mind - an all-embracing welcome to all who gaze upon them. Ursula Hall is a centre where visions can be created and encouraged, where diversity is accepted as a gift.
Finally, we have the motto - "The Truth shall set you free". In an academic environment such as Ursula Hall we are called to be seekers of truth, open to the truth of another, willing to dialogue with others and to have our worldviews challenged, reformulated and reignited with life.