Students on the terraces of the former ANU Student Union Building in the late 1960s. Photo courtesy of ANU Heritage.

Students on the terraces of the former ANU Student Union Building in the late 1960s. Photo courtesy of ANU Heritage.

A colourful history

At the heart of the ANU campus stands a structure that's seen a lot in its time. SIMON JENKINS uncovers the many phases of life experienced by the Pauline Griffin Building.

It's May 1971. Thousands of people have arrived at ANU for the Aquarius Festival of University Arts on the lawns between the Chifley Library and the then Student Union building.

Most are staying at the Canberra showground and arrive at ANU by bus to attend the concerts.

Elements of the Summer of Love linger, it's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

Concertgoer John Nugent told Chris Davies at the time about some of the feisty interactions between the local police and those on site.

"We were out on the lawn in front of Chifley Library and there were a lot of people listening to the music, a lot of drugs, and a really fun, relaxed atmosphere," Nugent said.

"ANU was the centre of the event and people from around Australia were here to have a great time."

Suddenly police - dressed in full riot gear that included black helmets, batons and riot shields - marched onto the lawn from the side of the Student Union building.

"We thought that they were after ratbags but then the riot police walked up to three girls who were eating lunch on the lawns and just started to beat the shit out of them," Nugent said.

"Other police began kicking and beating those nearest to them. People were running everywhere and there was a lot of yelling and screaming."

Many festivalgoers barricaded themselves in the Student Union.

"This turned out to be a wonderful location, as we were locked up with the Uni pub," Nugent said.