The history of Mac.Rob runs parallel to the history of women and girls in Victoria. The school has evolved over time, responding to the restrictions and opportunities facing women.
Mac.Rob and Melbourne High have the proud honour of their being Victoria's first state high school: The Melbourne Continuation School, which opened in 1905. The school on Spring Street was originally built as the National Model School, when Melbourne was the capital of a fledging colonial outpost. Designed by AE Johnston, the architect who designed Melbourne's GPO, the school looked beautiful but was remarkably unstable. There was a lack of labour, and the cost of building materials was vastly inflated in the 1850s, as the men had deserted our capital city for the goldfields.
In 1927 the boys were marched up to their new campus in South Yarra, a castle on the hill by the river: Melbourne High. The girls were left in the dilapidated school that was marked for demolition. The floor had rotted and the girls were left to learn in classrooms where umbrellas were used as a shield from the collapsing ceilings above them. One student even had the unfortunate experience of her class coming to rapid end when she fell through the floor. Whilst the young women learned, the foundations crumbled beneath them.
Yet the girls waited. There was no funding and minimal support for women continuing education in a society that expected them to become mothers and housewives. Things, however, changed in 1934 when the girls were given a new home, a campus of their own: Mac.Rob.
MacPherson Robertson, a self-made millionaire with an empire made from chocolate, was never averse to sharing his wealth and name. He rescued the girls with a generous grant that established our current school. Mac.Rob quickly became a bastion of equality in education, championing excellence and opening its doors to girls regardless of their wealth or the status of their parents.
Mac.Rob's honour boards reflect the migrant patterns of Victoria, showing a city and school that has benefitted from the diverse experience and knowledge of students and families who have made Melbourne their home. These same students have gone on to great success, from judges to surgeons, from politicians to writers. These women have left their fingerprints across our state and nation. In doing so, demonstrating the transformative power of an excellent state education to create opportunities for people of all backgrounds