Our history

Discover our unique history, including our motto and coat of arms.

We have been one of Australia's pioneering universities for more than 50 years. In 1967, 552 students enrolled at La Trobe University, the third university to open in Victoria, which has grown to accommodate more than 36,000 students, with over 7,000 international students from 110 countries.

We now have a network of campuses, with over 28,000 students at our Melbourne Campus and over 7,500 at our campuses in Albury-Wodonga, Bendigo, Mildura, Melbourne City (Collins Street), Shepparton and Sydney.

Past Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors

Our commitment to teaching excellence has been overseen by some truly inspirational people – leaders who have shaped the University, and the lives of the thousands of students who have attended here over the past five decades.

Past Chancellors

  • Sir Archibald Glenn OBE: 1967 - 1972
  • Hon Mr Justice Reginald Smithers: 1972-1980
  • Hon Mr Justice Richard McGarvie: 1980-1992
  • Emeritus Professor Nancy F Millis AC: 1992-2006
  • Dr Sylvia Walton AO: 2006 – 2011
  • Professor Adrienne E Clarke AC: 2011-2017
  • Professor Richard Larkins AC: 2017-2018
  • Hon Mr John M Brumby AO: 2019 - present

Past Vice-Chancellors

  • Professor David Myers: 1965 - 1976
  • Professor John Scott AO: 1977 - 1989
  • Professor Michael Osborne: 1990 - 2006
  • Professor Brian Stoddart: 2006
  • Professor Paul Johnson: 2007 - 2011
  • Professor John Dewar: 2011 - 2023

Who Was Charles La Trobe?

La Trobe University received its name in 1964, during a tumultuous period of political contention and radical social change in Australia that targeted the very heart of the nation. The 1963 submission of the Yirrkala bark petitions, the 1965 Freedom Rides, and the 1967 constitutional referendum typify the spirit of the times.

It was in this context that a committee of thirteen men and women was assembled to advise the government on all matters relating to the establishment of a new Victorian university. This committee unanimously decided to name the new university after Charles Joseph La Trobe (1801-1875).

Who was Charles La Trobe and why was he nominated as the university’s namesake?

La Trobe University Coat of Arms

Our Armorial Bearings combine significant symbols that encapsulate its history, goals and pride in its Victorian genesis.

Australia is represented by the Australian wedge-tailed eagle, one of the world's largest eagles. Victoria is represented by the sprigs of heath, the state’s floral emblem. The eagle is represented in La Trobe's brandmark.

The open book refers to the University's commitment to learning. The scallop shells are part of the La Trobe family bearings, and have been included to acknowledge the La Trobe name.

University motto

The French motto "Qui cherche trouve" (Whoever seeks shall find) is a modern version of the La Trobe family motto.

Today La Trobe is renowned for its academic excellence and research achievements.

Over 200,000 students have graduated from La Trobe University thus far, and have gone on to achieve great things in all walks of life, giving us our well-deserved reputation.