By Meg Hill
The Kelvin Club elected its first female president, Professor Su Baker (above), on October 6 – 24 years after the club first welcomed women.
The private members club is 153 years old, and its records show attempts to offer women membership dating back to 1968.
At the time, legislation inhibited those attempts. The legislation was changed in 1995 and the Kelvin Club started admitting women that same year.
In 2018 the Kelvin remains an anomaly, because most prestigious private members’ clubs remain “gentlemen’s clubs”.
Prof Baker was elected unopposed. She was previously the director of the Victorian College of the Arts and was awarded an Order of Australia in June.
The Kelvin Club’s attitude towards gender is part of a wider pursuit of contemporary ways to stay relevant in a time of “open access and heavily networked communities”.
“There are two ways to look at the idea of a club,” Prof Baker said. “Either as a mechanism of exclusion, that is, who is not eligible, or as an invitation to be included in a group of diverse but compatible people.”
“The Kelvin Club is not a club with a singular purpose or constituency, but rather it is many things to many people, so there are many ‘Kelvin Clubs’, all accepting of the others.”
“For those who are new, it’s always a surprise that down a quiet lane, Melbourne Place, just off Russell St, there is this remnant of old Melbourne.”
Prof Baker said places like the Kelvin Club could be a refuge from the fast-paced developments in the CBD while keeping with the expanding social fabric of Melbourne.
She said during her term she would focus on membership gender parity.
“At the moment we are sitting at 25 per cent, so there is much to do,” she said.