Shorthand History Tour of Melbourne

Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne

Shorthand History Tour of Melbourne

Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne

Staff Pick
1 h 35 m
5.91 km
Easy

Shorthand has preserved the spoken word in our parliament, courts and businesses since colonisation. It has played a major role in women's independence, by allowing access to a professional skill.

Shorthand History Tour of Melbourne

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Summary

Shorthand has preserved the spoken word in our parliament, courts and businesses since colonisation. It has played a major role in women's independence, by allowing access to a professional skill.

Description

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Please note this walk is 6km one-way. It begins near Parliament train station, and finishes near Flagstaff train station. Toilets are located on the walk at 200 Collins Street, and wheelchair accessible toilets are located in Emporium Melbourne at 287 Lonsdale Street.

“Silently and inconspicuously” shorthand writers and shorthand educators have contributed to the legacy which has shaped the City of Melbourne. Shorthand has preserved our post-European arrival history with records that include those of parliaments, businesses and courts.

Although the legacy which shorthand has afforded Melbourne is largely hidden, it is nonetheless entrenched and woven through multiple and varied facets of our society today.

From the 1840s, educated Melbourne men learned and wrote shorthand. It was a fundamental skill which, as part of their repertoire, empowered them to succeed in business, law or politics. Soon after, women believed they were entitled to the same possibilities, and actively commenced the struggle.

Two World Wars assisted female shorthand writers in their quest, however, many obstacles still remained. With the rise in popularity of shorthand, and therefore its demand, educators took advantage of opportunities to open shorthand colleges in Melbourne, and women took advantage of the opportunities to advance their financial independence.

For decades, the streets of Melbourne echoed daily with the footsteps of thousands of promising and accomplished shorthand writers as they completed their commute to shorthand colleges, business houses, courts and parliament. By the 1950s most emerging shorthand writers were female, who had won the right to work in business houses, even if they were yet to achieve equal working conditions.

Melbourne’s central grid is brimming with shorthand history and stories, all of which contribute to the endowment shorthand has left to our society.
As you walk around Melbourne, you will read and visualise how these scenarios and opportunities materialised. You will read about murders and theatres, all connected to shorthand.

The walk can be taken as one walk, or in parts, stopping at one of the many cafes dotted throughout the route. As you reveal the story of each site by clicking on the further information, view the photos of the sites as they are now and as they were.

Melbourne has many historical firsts in shorthand - the first Australian city to license shorthand writers to its Supreme Court, the first to produce a shorthand journal, and the first to produce a shorthand journal edited by a woman.

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Points of Interest

1. Acknowlegement

We acknowledge and pay respect to the Wurundjeri people, their leaders past, present and emerging, on whose land these events took place. We recognise that First Nations’ sovereignty was never ceded.

2. Victorian Parliament House, Spring Street

Hansard commenced in 1856. Earlier, newspapers reported parliamentary discussions. This is the first known photo of a Hansard reporter - Ernest Scott, in 1908. See link below for more information.

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3. Adam Lindsay Gordon, Gordon Reserve, Spring Street

Acclaimed poet and writer, Adam Lindsay Gordon wrote of "taking it down in shorthand." He was the first Australian poet to receive accolades abroad for his work. Further information - see link below.

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4. The Great Petition monument honouring "the Monster Petition"

A petition seeking women's franchise presented to our parliament at the same time women were fighting to obtain work in the men's domain of shorthand writing. See link below for further information.

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5. Site of Morningside Guest House (demolished) - 13 Spring Street

Known as the "Brown Out Murders", two shorthand writers were murdered by a US serviceman, during the war. He too was a competent shorthand writer. See link below for more information.

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6. The Princess Theatre, Spring Street

The is the venue for the musical "The O'Brien Girl", an independent, cashed-up, and fashionable stenographer. Later, a hypnotised shorthand writer performed her skill here. See link for more detail.

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7. Austral House, home of the professional women's club, Austral Salon

The Austral Salon held soirees for female shorthand students, advancing the aims of the Great Petition. It also has links to shorthand writer, Charles Dickens. See link below for more information.

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8. ANZAC House (demolished), 151 Collins Street, now part of T & G Building

Home of two prestigious shorthand colleges, which produced expert stenographers. The venue also hosted a "Bible Exhibition" including one hand-written in shorthand. More information in link below.

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9. Zercho's Business College (demolished), now part of T & G Building

With a fine shorthand reputation, Frederick Zercho opened his own College. One student surpassed expectations in order to prove the ability of female shorthand writers. See link below for more.

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10. Assembly Hall, 156 Collins Street

The venue for shorthand colleges' prize nights, an important meeting related to the Monster Petition and a speech by Isaac James Pitman, which affirmed women shorthand writers. See below link.

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11. The Melbourne Athenaeum, 188 Collins Street

Originally the Mechanics Institute championed by Sir Redmond Barry, shorthand classes were held here in 1859, and the first meeting of the Vic Institute of Shorthand Writers. See the link below.

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12. The Nicholas Building, over Cathedral Arcade, 37 Swanston Street

The Harry Norris designed building housed Mather's Commercial College. It boasted the latest in modern educational features. St Paul's (opposite) provided an interesting spin also! See link below.

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13. Pitman's Phonographic School, 237 Collins Street

Isaac Pitman's nephew, Clarence, entertained the public with his lectures. A savvy businessman, he offered shorthand classes, encouraging women to attend, here at his shorthand school .See link below.

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14. Cole's Book Arcade (demolished) 234 Collins Street

Melbourne's famous entertainment book arcade has several connections with shorthand. What could be more enticing to students than a shorthand college with social events in this venue! See link below

15. The Capitol Theatre, 113 Swanston Street

This art deco masterpiece summoned shorthand students to perform at their best - shrewd marketing, at the same time testing the acoustics of talkie movies. See link below for more information.

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16. Original T & G Building (demolished) Cnr Swanston & Lt Collins Streets

The female-only Shorthand Writers & Typists Assoc, affiliated with the National Council of Women, met here. They aimed to safeguard their financial independence, especially in wartime. See link below

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17. Presgrave Building, Little Collins Street

Expert shorthand writers, the Dacomb sisters, opened their college in this up-market building. They are among the few women worldwide to successfully develop their own shorthand. See link below.

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18. Blue Triangle Business Girls' Club (now Zara)

Ahead of its time, this was a popular place of respite for business girls working in the city. Started by the YWCA, it also offered shorthand speed sessions for skill maintenance. See link below.

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19. State Library of Victoria, Swanston Street

The SLV is home to some of Australia's early shorthand journals. The Redmond Barry Reading Room honours the shorthand writer, who promoted both shorthand and literacy in Victoria. See link below.

20. Mitchell House, 353 Lonsdale Street

Wartime created many issues for education, however the principal of Everett Business College saw the opportunities for skilled women with shorthand, both during and after the war. See the link below.

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21. Shorthand Writers & Typists Bureau, 139 Queen Street

Formed and managed by The Shorthand Writers & Typists Assoc, the Bureau set standards for businesses wishing to employ its members and fought for equal conditions. See the link below for more.

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22. Temple Court, 422 Collins Street

The name "Stott" is synonymous with shorthand education in Australia. This is where his innovative ideas commenced, The building has entertained and enlightened thousands over its history. Link below.

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23. Supreme Court of Victoria, 192 William Street

On its completion, this was the largest single construction in Australia. Prestigious legal identities wrote shorthand and even spoke of indebtedness to the skill. For more history, click the link.

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Features

Public Transport Public Transport
Seating available Seating available
Public toilets Public toilets
Pram friendly Pram friendly
Historical interest Historical interest
Local treasures Local treasures