Fellowships Fund Inc (FFI) is a separately incorporated group of members of Graduate Women Qld (formerly AFUWQ) committed to providing postgraduate opportunities for study and research to women by the provision of Fellowships.  Fellowships are funded from the investment built up by hundreds of volunteer members over 60 years. The investment capital was built on the profits from our former academic regalia business that hired and sold academic dress to universities and other institutions in Queensland.  FFI aims to provide several one-year Fellowships and one three-year Fellowship each year.

History

The provision of postgraduate Fellowships to women has been a way of expressing the long-held aims of women graduate associations worldwide to encourage educated women to improve their skills and their contribution to a better world, and promote better understanding between women of different nations. These objectives were enunciated at the first International Federation of University Women (IFUW) in London in 1920 and by the University of Queensland Women Graduates Association (UQWGA) at its inaugural meeting in the same year.  In 1922, UQWGA linked together with similar organizations in other States as the Australian Federation of University Women (AFUW), that in turn affiliated with IFUW.

Despite the changing demands of a country in the 20th century, the provision of fellowships and scholarships to women graduates has always been important to UQWGA (later renamed Australian Federation of University Women – Queensland (AFUWQ), now Graduate Women Qld Inc.) and associated organizations.  Initially funds were contributed to fellowships offered by international and national associations and as early as 1930 a fellowship fund was established, became dormant during the Great Depression and World World II and was revived in 1948.   Fund-raising for these took many and varied forms and was supported by voluntary contributions from members.

It was in the early 60s that the business of academic dress hiring commenced when the then principal of Women’s College of the University of Queensland, Molly Budtz-Olsen, with the help of friends borrowed gowns to ensure students attended graduation ceremonies. Eventually the operation grew in size and Molly Budtz-Olsen offered AFUW-Q the opportunity to provide this service.

In February 1963 The University of Queensland asked graduate women to hire regalia to its students for the Matriculation ceremony. AFUW-Q members saw this both as a means of supporting educational opportunities for women, and at the same time a way to provide a much-needed service to their alma mater.  It accorded with their strong beliefs that the provision of educational opportunities for women was the best contribution they could make. For this first ceremony in 1963 the hire charge was five shillings a gown. The first graduation was robed in May in the same year and this work continued over more than 50 years. Eventually, the enterprise grew in size and complexity to such an extent that it was considered prudent to separately incorporate this work as FFI in 1983.

FFI continued the business of Academic Dress Hire until 2017 when a number of commercial operators entered the field and changes in technology offered institutions a different way of running graduation ceremonies with imported, souvenir quality gowns and computerised procedures.  This made the Fellowship Fund’s high-quality regalia, requiring dry-cleaning and high maintenance costs, held by FFI redundant and The Fellowships Fund withdrew from the business of regalia hire and sale in late 2017.

Because of the shoestring budget and low administrative costs, proceeds from gown hiring built up gradually over the years.  From an initial amount of $2,000 awarded to a single graduate in 1972, the number of Fellowships has increased so that several new one-year Fellowships and one three-year Fellowship can be awarded each year.  Fellowships are now funded from investment gradually saved from the surplus of the regalia business. The stipend is set at 10% more than the APG Awards and increases in line with that award.  Since 1972 AFUWQ and FFI have, together, awarded over 200 Fellowships.

Our Fellowships have been awarded to women graduates from more than ten countries, and have supported studies in a wide range of disciplines, for example: marine biology, architecture, law, literature, radiography, mathematics, social work, archaeology, economics, molecular biology, management, music, information technology and performing arts.

Membership

The Fellowships Fund is a separately incorporated branch of Graduate Women Qld and membership of FFI is open to any member of that organisation. Any woman who has gained a degree from a university, or an equivalent academic qualification is eligible to join Graduate Women Qld. Application for membership must be made on the prescribed forms available from the Membership Secretary, FFI, PO Box 1355, Milton Q 4064 or by email: ffi@fellowshipsfund.com.au

Management Committee

The Management Committee consists of eight members with a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer elected for a period of three years. The following members were elected to the Management Committee in September 2020.