Paula Baron

In her own words

I have worked now for around eight years at La Trobe in senior management roles.  Prior to that, I had worked at Griffith University, Victoria University Wellington, the University of Western Australia and the University of Tasmania.  But my career at University was never planned, and, indeed, was an unexpected turn of events, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I had left school in year 10 because of illness, so never completed year 12.  Secondly, I had come from a background where education, particularly for girls, was not valued.  In fact, I was told my education would be a waste, because I would only get married, and never use it.  Thirdly, my decision to study at university resulted from a dare, rather than from any thoughtful process.

My actual employment at University was also unexpected.  During the summer break I was in the University law library studying, as I had one subject to complete.  I was approached by the then Dean of Law who was looking for someone to tutor contract the following year.  That sessional role morphed into a continuing position, and I became an academic lawyer.

Looking back, my career was formed through a series of excellent, but again, unanticipated opportunities. The first was the Australasian Law Teachers Association Teaching Workshop.  I loved teaching, and in my second year at the university, was supported to attend the workshop. In its original form, this was a six day ‘boot camp’ for law teachers around the country to learn about best practice in teaching and learning. On the basis of my participation in that first workshop, I was asked to be one of the leaders for the workshop the following year.  I continued to lead the workshop annually, and in 1996, we took the workshop to WA. This resulted in another unexpected development:   my appointment at UWA Law School, with particular responsibility for the introduction of innovation in teaching. The second significant opportunity was election as Branch President of the NTEU while In Tasmania, at a time when I was very early in my career and a very junior staff member.  This gave me invaluable insight into the ways in which universities work, gave me a seat at the table in enterprise bargaining, and was a great grounding in university management.    The third opportunity was a call out of the blue from the Dean of Law at Victoria University Wellington.  That call resulted in my appointment as the first woman professor of law at that institution (that was as relatively recently as 2005 and is always a reminder to me that gender equity is a work in progress!).

I came to La Trobe in 2010. Since that time, I have served as Head of the Law School, the Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Coursework) in the College of ASSC and now as Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning Quality and Innovation.  I have loved La Trobe, its mission and its people.  Because of my background I have always had particular interest in the education of non-traditional students, women’s education and career progression and the capacity of universities to create intergenerational change.  La Trobe has always advanced these causes and I am very proud of the university for its leadership in these areas.