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The Gordon grew out of the need for technical training in the brave new world of the 1800s industrial age. From its origins as a mechanics institute and a night school for tradespeople, The Gordon has become the embodiment of quality vocational education and training in Geelong and beyond.

During the late 1800s, Geelong's increasing importance as an industrial centre, along with a worrying overseas trend showing Britain was losing its traditional markets to the United States and Europe, spurred leading Geelong citizens to campaign for greater technical training. However, it was another overseas event that hastened The Gordon's development. The heroic exploits of British general Charles Gordon had captured Geelong's imagination. His death during the siege of Khartoum in Africa prompted calls for a memorial. One proposal, backed by a military battalion brass band, suggested a statue but others wanted something more meaningful. What better memorial could there be, it was said, for a man whose life was devoted to civic duty and, especially, to the education of the disadvantaged, than a vocational institute?

Since opening in 1887, in a single-storied hall and operating mainly night classes for tradespeople, The Gordon has developed into an institution operating across four campuses. In 2017 The Gordon celebrated 130 years of its proud history of leading education in the Geelong region.