Donation supports cutting-edge research

A significant philanthropic donation to La Trobe University Bendigo will help researchers better understand human disease, attract talented scientists to the region, and inspire the next generation of researchers.

The donation from Bendigo residents, Dr Bill and Mrs Carol Holsworth will be used to establish the Holsworth Biomedical Research Initiative (HBRI) – a multi-disciplinary research team with cutting-edge science and community outreach at its heart.

Director of HBRI Dr Donna Whelan said the initiative will strengthen La Trobe’s world-class research into understanding human diseases, including cancer and genetic diseases like motor neurone disease.

“Our lab in Bendigo is already leading the way in developing light-based imaging approaches to visualize, at a molecular level, the initial triggers of human disease,” Dr Whelan said.

“This extraordinary gift will grow our current research capabilities, attracting more talented scientists to Bendigo, and strengthening our research impact – not just in Australia, but around the world.”

Dr Whelan said one of the initiative’s key aims will also be to inspire the next generation of researchers.

“We have world-leading research facilities right here in Bendigo, and access to some of the best scientists in the country,” Dr Whelan said.

“A key part of this initiative will be to open up our campus to the local community and beyond – through seminars, guest lectures and interactive laboratory exercises, as well as multi-day workshops for high school and undergraduate students.”

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said Dr and Mrs Holsworth’s ongoing support is helping to put Bendigo on the map in terms of world-leading research.

“Donna is a very talented early-career researcher who is already making an impact internationally,” Professor Dewar said.

“It was through Bill and Carol’s vision and generosity that, in 2019, Donna was able to build one of the most powerful fluorescence microscopes in Australia – a real game-changer for her team, and molecular science research in Australia.

“This latest gift will see Donna’s team become more embedded in the local community, and build upon their research into human disease, making tangible differences to people across the world,” Professor Dewar said.

The Holsworth Biomedical Research Initiative (HBRI) will:

  • Host a multidisciplinary research team than spans expertise in molecular and cell biology, optics and physical chemistry.
  • Enable La Trobe to employ two postdoctoral scientists, as well as support undergraduate, honours and PhD students to work on unique research projects.
  • Conduct research that will lead to a better understanding of the causes of cancer and genetic diseases, enabling better diagnosis, prevention and treatment.
  • Host Year 12 students from Bendigo and surrounds, over the next three years, who are interested in health or science, for a multi-day workshop to experience La Trobe’s world-leading research facilities and be inspired to think about a future career in research.
  • Host regular seminars, guest lectures, and interactive laboratory exercises for members of the community.

Dr Bill Holsworth is a renowned ecologist, mammologist, wildlife biologist and philanthropist. Dr Holsworth and Mrs Holsworth have donated to La Trobe through the Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation (BTEAF) for over a decade.

Key projects at La Trobe Bendigo supported by the couple include the establishment of the Holsworth Research Initiative – focusing on research into exercise, physical activity and rehabilitation – and a custom-built home for the historic Sandhurst Collection in the campus’ expanded library.

Image: (left to right) The Hon John Brumby AO, Dr Donna Whelan, Dr Bill Holsworth, Mrs Carol Holsworth, Professor John Dewar AO

Media enquiries: Anna Knight,, 0481 383 817