The La Trobe Three

Event status:

Politics, protests and prison life. 45 years to the month since they were released from Pentridge Prison – hear for the first time the full story of University student protestors dubbed the La Trobe Three.

Thursday 24 August 2017 06:30 pm until Thursday 24 August 2017 08:00 pm (Add to calendar)
Christina Lew Senior Media and Communications Officer - Bold Thinking Series
Presented by:
Bold Thinking Series
Type of Event:
$10 / $5 Concession – all proceeds go to student equity scholarships

Watch now

It’s a story that made headline news – three young student activists ordered to be jailed indefinitely for disobeying a University order to stay off campus.

Their defiance earnt them a prison term in one of Melbourne's most notorious jails and set about a series of life-changing consequences.

You are invited to attend the next Bold Thinking Series event, as part of World La Trobe Week, and meet the La Trobe Three - Brian Pola, Fergus Robinson and Barry York. Hear their personal account of what happened then, and since; understand their passion for a political cause, their experiences in Pentridge and how those events still impact today.

It’s the first time the three men have agreed to speak on the circumstances that led to their incarceration and what has happened since.

They’ll be joined by respected La Trobe Historian Professor Katie Holmes who will explore the social and political context of the time and the broader cultural repercussions of the 70’s student movement.

As the University celebrates its 50th year, there’s no better time to investigate, debate and understand a seminal event in the University’s formative years.

Book now for this event held during World La Trobe Week – a celebration of the cultural diversity that has come to define the University over the last 50 years and for the La Trobe community to celebrate where we’ve come from and where we are going.

Followed by post-event networking drinks and canapés.


Professor Katie Holmes first came to La Trobe University in 1994. She teaches in the History Department and for many years also taught in the Gender, Sexuality and Diversity program. Katie researches broadly in twentieth century Australian history, specialising in environmental history, gardens, and women’s private writings, especially in letters and diaries. She is the Director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland and was the lead Chief Investigator on the ARC Discovery Project ‘Changing Landscapes, Changing People: Australia’s southern mallee lands, 1830-2012’, and a joint Chief Investigator on a La Trobe/Monash ARC Linkage grant on ’Australian Generations: life histories, generational change and Australian memory’. Katie has also actively researched in the following areas: war; sexuality; feminism; single women; and the experience of time. In 2010, Katie held the Keith Cameron Chair in Australian History at University College Dublin. Between 2013-2017 Katie was the Director of the Research Focus Area, Transforming Human Societies.

Brian Pola: At 18, Brian Pola was called for National Service in the Army, which was deferred as he began studies at La Trobe in 1969. In 1971, he was elected President of the Student Representative Council and participated in student sit-ins and occupations. As a result, he was excluded for one year in 1972. In March 1972, Injunctions were taken out against four excluded students including Brian Pola. Warrants were issued for their arrest with Brian on the run from police until May, when the Special Branch arrested him at home in Nhill. He was sent to Pentridge Prison for three months because he refused to apologise and believes he had nothing to apologise for. Since 1972, Brian Pola has been a teacher, lecturer, writer and community activist. He is still a communist. In 2007, he published Yarrowee, A Radical Life which is available free on-line at

Fergus Robinson: Fergus has a Master Preliminary (History La Trobe University) and a Dip Ed. Together with Barry York he co-authored the first published account of Aboriginal Resistance to British settler colonialism – The Black Resistance. Under the auspices of La Trobe University’s History Department and the National OHS Commission, he researched and wrote a history of Occupational Health and Safety Practice in the Construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. His particular academic interest, however, has been the Scottish Jacobite rebellion of 1745-46. Fergus is the author of numerous safety publications including the Incolink Safety Handbook. He is currently engaged in the utilities, energy and communications sector with a major NBN delivery partner.

Barry York: Barry was President of the La Trobe Labour Club in 1970 and 1971. In 1972, Barry was jailed at Pentridge maximum-security prison with Fergus Robinson and Brian Pola for contempt of the Supreme Court. The jailing aroused widespread opposition as there was no criminal charge, no right to appeal or bail and no sentence. Barry recently retired from the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, where he worked as an historian. He has a PhD from the University of New South Wales and in 2005 was awarded the Order of Australia for his contribution to recording the Australian immigration story. He is proud of his contribution to creating great disorder under Heaven in the period 1968 to 1972, and hopes to see a revival of all that was great about that period. He blogs at C21st Left


State Library Theatrette, Enter via Entry 3 (side entrance)

179 La Trobe Street, Melbourne



18th Jun 2018 4:02pm

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