The fine autumn weather came to the party for the highly anticipated academic procession marking 150 years of tertiary education in Bendigo.
La Trobe University, in partnership with Bendigo TAFE, led the celebrations on Friday April 21st, which included alumni from antecedent institutions.
On fencing, fun, and tradition
Hundreds gathered in regalia at the Capital Theatre (which also celebrates its 150th year), enjoying some pre-procession catch-ups in the early afternoon sunshine.
Deb Radford and Marnie Baker were both in attendance. They are alumni of the Bundoora and Bendigo campuses respectively, but met working at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank – Deb is a former director and Marnie is the current Managing Director. (Asked if there is a secret La Trobe alumni handshake, Deb confirmed, “Absolutely, and you’re not going to know about it.”)
Deb, who is La Trobe's Deputy Chancellor, completed an economics degree, graduating in 1976.
As a keen fencer, Deb trained under swashbuckling Errol Flynn-lookalike Professor John Fethers for six months and then represented La Trobe at the Australian Intervarsity fencing competition in Sydney in the winter of 1976, as a novice, winning 5-3.
“It was very exciting,” she recalled.
“I can’t compete with that,” Marnie laughed.
Marnie started studying part-time at the Bendigo College of Advanced Education in 1987. She has a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Accounting, and graduated in 1990.
“There were a lot more contact hours then,” Marnie said.
“I spent a lot of time in the circular lecture theatre… and also the student union bar. It felt like Paul Kelly was playing there every couple of nights.”
What Marnie particularly loved about the procession was the tradition.
“In modern society we’re losing a lot of traditions, but I come from a small country town and tertiary education is really important,” she said.
“To be able to highlight the fact that we have such great tertiary providers in regional Australia is worth celebrating.”
On scholarships and world-leading research
Marnie and Deb, recognising that not all students have the same opportunities, particularly in regional areas, have been supporting scholarships to help ease the financial burden on students for more than 17 years.
“I look around Bendigo and we have a fabulous hospital and a huge number of schools. Without La Trobe being here, we wouldn't have the opportunity for all those nurses, teachers, physios. It’s such an important part of the community," said Deb.
Enjoying some early afternoon sun on a bench was Maggie Flood, who studied at La Trobe’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, one of the oldest tertiary nursing schools in Australia.
Around the year 2000, Maggie went to work at the Judith Lumley Centre and has been associated with them ever since, working in a lot of mother and child research projects.
“There’s a lot of world-leading, world-first research happening there and it's such a privilege to be part of it.”
When funding ran dry for projects, Maggie decided she loved the Centre so much that she started a PhD, researching childbirth haemorrhage in the women of Victoria. Her work fed into a longitudinal study that has been cited the world over.
“I’m still a staff member. We don't have any funding, but we have a lot of enthusiasm and goodwill,” she said.
“I’m dreaming up a new project that will help make things better for mums in Victoria – I was just talking to someone here about it, because it's always a case of networking whenever you're at something like this.”
On La Trobe's Dogs for Life program and belonging
Lachlan Saunders and Dr Jimmy Mai were having a chat outside before the group photograph on the steps of the Capital Theatre. Lachy is a Larrakia man from Darwin who earned a Bachelor of Outdoor Education at La Trobe Bendigo. He now works in the university library on the collections and digitising, and still plays for the La Trobe Bendigo soccer team.
The two had been reminiscing over their participation in the Dogs for Life program, part of Jimmy’s PhD program in Anthrozoology. As Jimmy explained, “We raised puppies to help veterans with PTSD. It’s a two-million dollar program we have at La Trobe and part of my PhD was to bring that on campus, with students and staff raising puppies.”
Jimmy is now an Associate Lecturer in Psychology at La Trobe Bendigo. He came along to the procession because: “It’s pretty cool to be part of something very big and have this sense of belonging.”
150 years fundraising campaign
To tie in with the celebrations, La Trobe University and Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation (BTEAF) have launched a fundraiser with the goal of raising $150,000 to continue providing long-term assistance and funding for local Bendigo students, so that no one misses out on a tertiary education.