September 2015

You might have seen coverage on ABC News 24 and ABC Radio National about the inaugural Australian Futures Project Leadership Program for Parliamentarians that was launched at Parliament House in Canberra in August.

The University is the academic host of the Australian Futures Project and has supported the initiative since its inception in late 2012.

The Leadership Program for Parliamentarians has been developed to help members of parliament broaden the skills they need to handle the very broad and often complex range of issues they need to best serve the community. It resembles a similar program run in the US for some years by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for newly elected congressional representatives.

The program is comprised of modules that have been specifically tailored to the needs of parliamentarians and will begin in early 2016. The program enjoys the support of both major political parties, and it is hoped that up to 18 MPs from all sides of politics will be amongst the inaugural cohort of participants.

This September edition marks the official arrival of Spring and our emergence from what has been the coldest winter on record for 29 years. As we enter the final third of the year, and as thoughts turn to Grand Finals and Spring Racing, I'm pleased to report some good news stories from around our campuses.

Open Days 2015: a great success

Last Friday marked the conclusion to our 2015 Open Day series with a very successful event being held at our Albury-Wodonga campus.

We welcomed a total of 26,322 prospective students and parents to all of our campuses for Open Day this year. This is a slightly down on attendances last year, but when combined with the success of this year's Experience La Trobe events - which saw an 87 per cent increase in attendance throughout 2015 compared to last year - makes for a tremendous result overall.

An event like Open Day is the culmination of months of effort from a considerable amount of people right across the University and it is their hard work that has made these events so successful. Of course there are too many people to name individually, but I want to thank everyone involved for supporting this important recruitment initiative. A special mention and thanks should go to our Open Day coordinators across our campuses including: Elizabeth Gallagher, Melinda Keighran, Jessica Croft, Rebecca Crossling and Jessica Watt. Well done to all.

Aspire Update

These excellent Open Day and Experience La Trobe numbers are further underlined by the growing success of our Aspire program. We received 1882 applications for places under our Aspire program by the August 31st closing date, a 52 percent increase on last year. These applicants have between them made 5119 course applications, which represents an increase of 126.8 percent on last year.

Aspire has established itself as one of our most important channels for undergraduate recruitment, and is regarded as a leader in the sector. Congratulations to Shawn Walker and his team for achieving this outstanding result, especially Lorraine Ryan (Manager, Undergraduate Student Recruitment), Melanie Edgar (Aspire Project Lead) and Caitlin Beasley (Senior Admissions Coordinator).

New MoU's with Indian partners

I've just returned from a visit to India as part of an Education Mission led by Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

A number of other Australian Vice-Chancellors were on the Mission, and we were privy to discussions between Minister Pyne and his Indian counterpart, Minister Irani about educational collaboration.

There are a number of important joint government initiatives under way of which La Trobe will be well placed to take advantage. Our engagement with India is led by La Trobe Asia under the leadership of Professor Nick Bisley.

I also attended the opening of the Delhi office of the Australia India Institute, of which La Trobe is a founding partner.

India is central to the University's engagement with Asia and I was very pleased to be able to visit some of our partner institutions to sign new Memorandums of Understanding (MoU's) during the visit.

I visited Lady Shri Ram College for Women to celebrate 20 years of our partnership with the College. This is one of our longest-running student exchange programs, and indeed is one of the oldest partnerships between any Australian and Indian institutions, and has greatly enriched the learning experience of many La Trobe students.

To celebrate this unique relationship, the Principal from the Lady Shri Ram College, Dr Suman Sharma, signed a MoU with us for staff exchange, which will see an academic from Lady Shri Ram College spend a month at La Trobe to undertake a University-funded professional development program in 2016.

I also renewed our MoU with Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara (JSS) University in Mysore. Under the MoU, leading scientists from both universities will work together on a research project to investigate the effects of herbs and spices on the cognitive function of patients with type 2 diabetes. La Trobe has contributed $30,000 towards a scholarship for a PhD student who will be working on this project at JSS University. JSS is an impressive organisation, and includes an 1800 bed teaching hospital in the southern city of Mysore – which is three times larger than the largest Australian equivalent.

La Trobe providing leadership for our politicians

You might have seen coverage on ABC News 24 and ABC Radio National about the inaugural Australian Futures Project Leadership Program for Parliamentarians that was launched at Parliament House in Canberra in August.

The University is the academic host of the Australian Futures Project and has supported the initiative since its inception in late 2012.

The Leadership Program for Parliamentarians has been developed to help members of parliament broaden the skills they need to handle the very broad and often complex range of issues they need to best serve the community. It resembles a similar program run in the US for some years by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for newly elected congressional representatives.

The program is comprised of modules that have been specifically tailored to the needs of parliamentarians and will begin in early 2016. The program enjoys the support of both major political parties, and it is hoped that up to 18 MPs from all sides of politics will be amongst the inaugural cohort of participants.

The write stuff in Bendigo

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those staff who contributed to the success of this year's Bendigo Writers Festival. I hope many of you were also able to attend some of the fantastic events held over the festival weekend.

This year's Festival was the most successful ever. The BWF goes from strength to strength and means that the festival has further established itself as the leading regional festival of its kind. From La Trobe's point of view, this year's successes included the 2,500 primary and secondary school students who participated in the Texts Mark the Spot schools program curated by La Trobe staff, and the 600 tickets sold to the Ideas and Society keynote event hosted by Emeritus Professor Robert Manne in conversation with Tariq Ali.

Many other La Trobe staff took an active part in the sessions, as interviewers or panel participants. I enjoyed interviewing author and School Principal John Marsden about his latest book 'South of Darkness'. John was thoughtful and honest about the forces that drive him to write and which shape his fiction.

This event could not have happened but for the extraordinary commitment of many La Trobe staff, especially Sue Gillett, Sarah Mayor Cox and Paul Morris. The commitment of these colleagues exemplifies the powerful impact that a University can have on its community, especially in the regions. The benefits were also shared with students  - for example, Sue ran her 'Writers in action' subject alongside the Festival, and the students' impressions of their experience were captured in the August edition of UniNews, circulated with the Bendigo Advertiser last week.

For those who were unable to attend, the three Ideas and Society events held during the Festival weekend are available for viewing on the Ideas and Society website.

Ideas and Society explores Australia's relationship with China

In closing I encourage you to attend our next Ideas and Society event.

Entitled 'Fear and Greed', it will bring together four distinguished speakers to discuss what drives Australia's growing relationship with China.

Led by La Trobe Asia's Professor Nick Bisley, the panel will include the Honourable Bob Carr, Linda Jakobson from China Matters and Dr John Lee, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. 

Australia has benefitted enormously from the economic transformation of China. But some in the community are also concerned about the broader consequences of China's return as a great power.

This panel will discuss the extent to which fear and greed drives Australia's relations with China, and will ask: what should be the forces shaping this most important relationship and how is it likely to evolve in the coming years?

Join this distinguished panel of experts on Monday 21 September at the Clemenger Theatre at the NGV to dissect the dynamics and future of Sino-Australian relations. For more information or to book your place, visit the website.

Have a great September, and enjoy the warmer weather.

Regards

John