20 facts you didn’t know about La Trobe

20 facts you didn’t know about La Trobe

Did you know some La Trobe buildings were once part of a psychiatric hospital? That our current students come from over 100 countries, or that we’re in Victoria’s top three research universities?

With more than 50 years of history behind us, we’re pleased to bring you 20 facts about La Trobe University – some of which may surprise and delight you.

1. The Melbourne campus at Bundoora was once a farm supporting the Mont Park and Larundel psychiatric hospitals – the Terrace buildings (pictured below) were actually part of Mont Park. The hospitals were self-sufficient in food; cows, pigs, grains, vegetables and fruit trees thrived where we now walk.


 2. Archaeology students have shed light on the history of these hospitals, which also housed injured troops during World War I, by carrying out digs on site as part of their course.

3. During the 1960s and ‘70s, dozens of students took to the waters of the Bundoora campus moat each year for the Annual Moat Race. They built all kinds of ‘boats’, from handmade crafts to bathtubs, some of which stayed afloat. Now, we recommend swimming in the pool at the Sport Centre.


4. La Trobe rates among the top 1.1% of universities worldwide (Times Higher Education (THE), 2019).

5. It is also among the world’s elite institutions in more than a third of the subjects it teaches (latest QS World University Rankings, March 2020). It is in the top 50 for sports-related subjects, top 100 in archaeology and nursing, our online MBA is ranked 3rd in Australia, and six other subjects made the global top 200 list.


6. Many La Trobe buildings and spaces are inspired by those of ancient Greece: Agora (meeting place – pictured below), Peribolos (enclosed court around a temple), Plaka (neighbourhood of Athens). And so, of course, there are the columns, albeit made from brick, a feature of many buildings.


7. Indira Gandhi, India’s first female Prime Minister and leading 20th century statesperson, visited La Trobe in 1968 – a year after the University opened.

8. Nobel Peace Prize-winner, South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visited La Trobe in 1987 and again in 1993. His first lecture drew the biggest crowd ever for a University public lecture.

9. Victoria’s first Lieutenant-Governor and University namesake Sir Charles Joseph La Trobe (pictured below) was a botanist, geologist, hunter of beetles and butterflies, and ‘sketcher of no mean pretensions’.


10. La Trobe is the largest provider of university education in regional Victoria. More than 8,000 students are from rural and remote areas. Our country campuses are in Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga, Mildura and Shepparton.

11. The majority of our regional graduates develop careers locally, reducing the exodus of young people to capital cities, helping to build stronger communities in regional Australia.


12. The only Pulitzer Prize-winning historian in Australia, the late Emeritus Professor Rhys Isaac, worked at La Trobe.

13. A new style of history writing in the ’70s was based on the work of La Trobe’s Rhys Isaac (pictured below with book), Inga Clendinnen and Greg Dening. They engaged a generation of students with their narrative approach, at a time when history usually meant learning dry facts and figures.


14. La Trobe has a long history of expertise in Asia, pioneering Asian studies in Australia. It is now one of only two universities nationally that teach the major Asian languages Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Hindi.

15. The University has more than 200,000 graduates in Australia and internationally. Its current enrolment includes close to 8,000 full-time international students from 110 countries.


16. Cartoonist and artist Michael Leunig and former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam have honorary degrees from La Trobe.

17. Climate champion Tim Flannery completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at La Trobe University, before further study and a range of academic posts led him to national prominence as Australia’s preeminent environmentalist.

18. The radical protest movement of the early ’70s saw three La Trobe students jailed, from four months to six weeks. Others were arrested. Some went on to become successful writers and historians, one a member of the University Council, another won the first Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History.


19. Not all student protest ceased in the ’70s. Students occupied the David Myers building for two weeks in the late ’80s. They used the kitchen and toilets while staff, including the Vice-Chancellor, had to step over sleeping bodies to get to their offices in the morning.

Dale Trendall, a legendary figure in classical scholarship and Australia’s first Professor of archaeology, was La Trobe’s only resident fellow. He lived in Menzies College from 1969 until his death in 1995. La Trobe’s Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies is named after him.

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