Discover Avondale University


Avondale University traces its beginnings to 1892 when its predecessor institution was established in Melbourne, Victoria, to educate young people for employment in the developing work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. In 1897 the College was relocated to its present site in Cooranbong, New South Wales. It initially offered courses in teaching, business, and biblical and mission studies.

Avondale has been preparing students for degrees since the 1950s, initially through external programs (BSc, University of London) and affiliation agreements (BA, Pacific Union College, California; MA, Andrews University, Michigan), and subsequently with Australian accreditation.

From 1974, Avondale has offered an expanding range of its own degrees with NSW government accreditation. A range of masters degrees has been added since the early 1990s. Doctoral studies have been offered since 2006.

The past decade has seen a significant development in staff qualifications and research output. Four research centres and an academic press have been established. There has been increasing interaction, including collaborative research with Australian universities, industry, and the professions. Scholarly activity has been facilitated by policies providing generously for staff research and professional development.

In December 2014, Avondale was granted self-accrediting status by the Tertiary Education Quality & Standards Agency (TEQSA). Then, in August 2019, TEQSA granted Avondale Australian University College status. Most recently, in July 2021, TEQSA made the decision to change Avondale’s provider category to Australian University.

Avondale’s Name Changes

The various names by which Avondale has been known since its founding in 1897 are indicative both of its journey within the Australian higher education sector and in the broadening of its scope in teaching, research and community engagement.

Historical Names of Avondale
1897Avondale School for Christian Workers
1911Australasian Missionary College
1964Avondale College
2011Avondale College of Higher Education
2019Avondale University College
2021Avondale University


The first principal was C.B. Hughes, an American who arrived with his wife one month after the official opening of the school. He worked with the former principal of the St Kilda school, L.J. Rousseau, H.C. Lacey, A.G. Daniells, S.N. Haskell and W.C. White to direct the school through a period of rapid expansion. After an initial enrolment of just two students and five staff on the first day in 1897, by 1899 one hundred and fifty students were enrolled.

List of Vice-Chancellors
1897 – 1914
1897H. C. Lacey (Acting)
1897-1898C. B. Hughes
1899A. G. Daniells
E. R. Palmer
C. B. Hughes
1900-1901C. B. Hughes
1902-1908C. W. Irwin
1909J. H. Paap (Acting)
1910-1912B. F. Machlan
1913-1914G. Teasdale
1914 – 1929
1914-1915J. Mills
1916J. M. Johanson
F. L. Chaney
1917J. M. Johanson
C. Schowe
1918-1919L. D. A. Lemke
1920-1921H. Kirk
1921-1922W. W. Prescott
1923-1927L. H. Wood
1928-1929E. E. Cossentine
1930 – 1946
1930-1931H. K. Martin
1932H. K. Martin
A. F. J. Kranz (Acting)
1933-1935A. E. Speck
1935A. F. J. Kranz (Acting)
1936-1937C. S. Palmer
1938-1939A. H. Piper
1940-1943T. C. Lawson
1944B. H. McMahon
1945-1946E. Rosendahl (Acting)
1947 – Present
1947-1952W. G. C. Murdoch
1953-1955E. E. White
1956E. G. McDowell (Acting)
1956-1958E. E. White
1959-1970E. G. McDowell
1971-1980E. A. Magnusson
1981-1984J. J. C. Cox
1984-1990B. W. Ball
1990-2003G. A. Madigan
2003J. F. Cox (Acting)
2004-2008J. F. Cox
2009-2020R.C.W. Roennfeldt
2020-2023K.J. Petrie
2023-PresentKerri-Lee Krause


A sawmill constructed on the banks of Dora Creek in 1895 was the first building on the Avondale Estate in Cooranbong. After some delay, Bethel Hall, a women’s residence and a second building nearby with classrooms, a men’s residence and a kitchen, were sufficiently completed for classes to begin.

“Bethel” is Hebrew meaning “house of God.” Seventh-day Adventist Church pioneers Stephen Haskell and Ellen White opened it on April 28, 1897.

Haskell Hall, a two-storey men’s residence (first called Herman Hall), was completed in the summer of 1897/98 and the Avondale Church building, at the entrance to the estate, dedicated debt free in 1897.

College Hall, later known as The Chapel, was built over three months early in 1899. It contained several classrooms, the principal’s office, two primary school classrooms, the library and a chapel.

In late 1899 the Avondale Health Retreat was built near the church to provide medical support for the community and practical experience for first-year nurses in training. The Sanitarium Health Food factory was established on the old sawmill site. After enrolment increased to 205, in 1905, Preston Hall was built, joining Bethel Hall to the second building. The business office was completed by 1910.

A manual arts building and The Laurels, a domestic science centre, were completed in 1925 and marked the end of the construction of timber buildings. The first brick building, Music Hall, cost $1000 to build that same year. Then came the Depression. Little changed on the estate save for construction of the Science Building in 1937. Later, College Hall was enlarged, the front became the back and a sound shell was added. Andre Hall, a new women’s residence, was completed in 1952 and the Auditorium, a large multi-purpose centre, was completed in time for graduation in 1953. Then came the Ellen G White Memorial Building, an administrative, classroom and library block completed in 1960. Men’s residence Watson Hall replaced Haskell Hall in 1964. Construction of the Education Building, then the new home of what is now Avondale School, finished a year later in 1965.

Ladies Chapel, adjacent to Andre Hall, opened in 1979. Avondale renamed the building Ella Hughes Chapel in 2015. Ella (Evans) Hughes (1864-1962) was a school teacher who with husband Cassius Hughes, the first principal at Avondale in 1897, pioneered wholistic education. She valued higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree before many of her male colleagues. Ella headed the primary school on campus and served as the first trainer of teachers. As preceptress, she and her husband lived in the student residences.

Avondale refurbished the Science Building in 1980 after Avondale School moved to its new Avondale Road campus. In 1985, the congregation of Avondale University Seventh-day Adventist Church, which had been meeting in College Hall and the Auditorium, met for the first time in its own building. Avondale University Seventh-day Adventist Church is now recognised as one of the most significant examples of modern architecture in the Hunter.

A new women’s residence, Ella Boyd Hall, replaced Preston Hall—now demolished—in 1990. Restored with Avondale University Foundation and New South Wales Heritage Council funding, Bethel Hall reopened on October 21, 1992. Renovations to College Hall, now classified by the National Trust, were completed in 1997. The Jeremic Wing extension of the Library opened in 1998. In 2002, the construction of a new and larger venue—the Chan Shun Auditorium—to replace the Auditorium was completed. The church was refurbished in 2006.

For more information visit Campuses. Information about student residences is available at Accommodation. The university also has a significant number of study spaces available to students.

Early Years
History and Anecdotes
1852The original owner of the College estate was Patrick Campbell who was granted 1500 acres on the north bank of Dora Creek. He never developed or lived on it, he sold it to William Brett in 1852 for $1667.
1895The first Adventist school at Cooranbong began on 5 May. It was essentially a land clearing operation with classes in rudimentary subjects in the evening held in the deserted Healey’s hotel.
1895An official company was formed in Cooranbong, later becoming a church with 35 baptised members. They met in the dining room of the abandoned Healey’s hotel.
1895Metcalfe Hare and his wife Maria and sons Milton and Robert were the first to settle on the Avondale estate – they lived in a tent.
1895The first young ladies to attend the Avondale School, J. Mansell and L. Oliver, came for a short training session in book-selling at the end of this year.
1896The successful bid for constructing Bethel Hall was for $910 and building by Fred Lamplough began on 1 October. Ellen White gave an address in which she advocated commencement of a junior school. This began within a few days and included the Gambrill, Hare and White children.
1897C.B. Hughes, the first principal, earned $15 per week.
1897The first school bell costing $30 was paid for by donations from the community collected by Sara McEnterfer. It was moved to a place above College Hall in 1899.
1897The new church at the entry to the estate was dedicated on 17 October, with 300 present and Haskell preaching. It had been built in two months at a cost of about $2,750 and was dedicated debt free.
1897The first South Pacific islanders to attend the school arrived.
1898Rising time was 5:00 am and bed time was at 8:45 pm.
1898Minnie Hawkins and Evelyn Gooding were the first trainee teachers.
1899The Chapel building program was supervised by Fred Lamplough. He was paid $2 per day.
1904Annual picnics for students and staff were introduced. All travelled by boat to Silverwater via Dora Creek.
1908Electric light was available for night time use.
1911Phone was first connected to College.
1926First vacuum cleaner purchased.
Early Enrolments
189782 students
1898104 students
1899150 students
1900140 students
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