Student Administration Officer, Denison Dias, walks the corridors and offices of RGIT’s main campus building every weekday. Although seemingly knowing these walls like the back of his hand, for the young history buff, Denison knew that the building had its own stories to tell before its housing of the quality training institute it does today. The walls and decorations, for one, intrigued Denison, and encouraged the young historian to find out more. Denison has contributed the following article:
Originally build in 1939, RGIT’s Main campus was originally the head office of Australian Natives’ Association (ANA). “Natives”, in this context, meant Australian-born white men; as opposed to their Britain-born forbearers. It was indeed to this generation of "Australian-born men" and strong advocates of Federation, that membership at ANA was restricted.
In terms of architecture, ANA building's façade sees Art Deco spandrels composed of architectural terracotta with reliefs emblazoning, perhaps ironically, native Australian fauna and flora.
The coat of arms features the three-mast ship of the Enterprise in the top left-hand quadrant; a fleece hanging from a ring symbolising grazing in the top right-hand quadrant; wheat symbolising farming in the bottom left-hand quadrant; and a pick and shovel in the bottom right-hand corner, symbolising mining. The coat of arms with an entourage of the native kangaroo and emu, not dissimilar to the Australian Coat of Arms, includes these animals as they cannot walk (or hop) backwards - symbolic of the nation's forever moving forwards and progressiveness.
A keen eye will also be able to spot kookaburras on the stair banisters, and cheeky koalas on the lift frames.
The history of ANA's founding and history is not so cute and cuddly, however. ANA was founded in Melbourne, Colony of Victoria, in April 1871, with their restricted membership to Australian-born, white men coming at a time when "Australian-born" men of European decent were rising to power in place of an older, Britain-born generation. Come the 1890s, these individuals had become the majority of the Australian population. A year later, in 1872, ANA voted to extend membership to men born in other Australian colonies and changed its name at the same time. The Association played a leading role in the movement for Australian federation in the last 20 years of the 19th century, allowing for the federated state we enjoy today. In 1900 the Association had a membership of 17,000, mainly in Victoria.
The ANA provided sickness, medical and funeral cover. The ANA consisted mainly of energetic middle-class men aged under 50 - a perfect base for a forward-looking, idealistic movement such as Federation. In 1952, the ANA overcame opposition to secure 26 January as the Australia Day holiday. In the late twentieth century, political and social causes were gradually abandoned, and the ANA concentrated on paying benefits to its members.