April 2019

April has been another busy month at La Trobe, with lots to celebrate.

Premier’s Awards for Health & Medical Research

It was fantastic to see three La Trobe academics represented recently as finalists in the Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research. My congratulations to Dr Mishel McMahon who won the inaugural Aboriginal Researcher award. This was in recognition of her work on the principles of First Nations childrearing. Mishel is a proud Yorta Yorta woman, a researcher in social work and an Indigenous Academic Enrichment Advisor at our Shepparton Campus.

Congratulations also to Dr Amy Baxter and Dr Wendy Bunston who were both finalists for the Premier’s Awards.

Research with Engagement and Impact

Some of our great high-impact research was recently profiled in the Federal Government’s Engagement and Impact results.

The results are an excellent foundation on which to build and recognise the strength and diversity of our work and how it is changing lives and communities for the better. The full list of those recognised is here, and includes our work in fields as diverse as law, the sciences, humanities and allied health services and supports. Congratulations to you all.

Our Nangak Tamboree eco-corridor

On Monday, we celebrated the official naming of our eco-corridor, the 2km biodiverse waterway which runs through our Melbourne Campus. The name was voted on last year by students and staff from a shortlist of names proposed by University Elder Aunty Joy Murphy. The winning name – Nangak Tamboree (pronounced: nan-ynack tam-bor-ee) – means respecting, sharing and looking after the waterway in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people. This is a wonderful choice of name, and thank you to everyone who voted.

Nangak Tamboree is a key component of our City of the Future plan, connecting the University to the wider community and environment - you can read more about our eco-corridor neighbourhood vision here.

Early signs of stroke success

You may have seen media reports earlier this month of the innovative research being undertaken by Professor Chris Sobey using stem cell therapy to assist stroke victims.

A trial of the therapy is underway between La Trobe, the Hudson Institute and the Monash Medical Centre. While it is very early days, the initial signs appear promising. Amniotic stem cells are injected into the bloodstream of selected patients; the cells flow through the body and gather at the site of brain injury, healing brain injuries faster than current treatments. It’s a great example of La Trobe’s innovation and collaboration with Melbourne’s leading health and medical researchers.

Making a difference in the regions

Earlier this month I was at our Albury-Wodonga campus to attend a graduation ceremony, and I look forward to attending our other graduation ceremonies over the coming weeks. Graduation ceremonies are always special, but at a regional campus the impact we have is plain to see.

In Albury-Wodonga, we have introduced a program in partnership with four local schools to increase participation and achievement by students at risk of dropping out after Year 11. The early results are very promising - not only does our program retain these students in school in greater numbers than previously, but they move on to university study at twice the rate we saw before we established this program.

And we don’t just work with school leavers – 57 per cent of students at Albury-Wodonga are over 25, meaning they have not come directly from school, and about half our students are the first in their family to attend university. We have worked closely with Wodonga TAFE to build pathways that enable those returning to study to progress to the highest level possible.

We believe that this work is really important: participation rates in higher education fall dramatically as you leave capital cities. It’s inexplicable that this persistent inequality continues in Australia today, but La Trobe is playing its part in giving everyone the chance of a university education, no matter where they live.

Rural Road Trauma Centre

Not only do rural and regional communities have less access to higher education than their city counterparts, they also bear a disproportionate level of burden from road trauma. While some 60 per cent of deaths on Victorian roads occur in regional Victoria, only 24 per cent of the population live outside Melbourne. So Pam Snow and colleagues in the La Trobe School of Rural Health have proposed to do something about this by establishing the Rural Road Trauma Research Hub at our Bendigo Campus, combining research expertise from across the campus, including rural health, psychology, pharmacy, engineering, planning, education and law. We’re delighted that the Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters MP, has announced that Federal Labor will contribute $2 million to the project if elected, which would enable us to recruit a director and senior researcher staff to immediately start work on establishing the Hub.

There must be an election coming

We have been very fortunate in recent weeks to have been the beneficiary of some important funding announcements from both sides of politics. In addition to the funding promised for the Rural Road Trauma Centre (above), we have also received funding from the current government for an extension to our campus in Shepparton, and for our Nexus Program which is an employment-based pathway for high achieving teachers aimed at regional schools.

As in other areas of policy in this election, there is a wide gulf in the higher education policies of the two major parties. A re-elected Liberal Government would probably maintain the cap on student enrolments, permitting only tightly managed growth in line with population increases and performance. A new Labor Government would reinstate the demand driven system and would initiate a major review of the whole post-secondary sector with a view to improving linkages and pathways between the VET and HE sectors.

Higher Education has not featured heavily in the campaign so far, but we can expect to see further specific funding announcements around the country as the campaign unfolds.

Meanwhile, the Australian Futures Project, with assistance from colleagues in the Centre for Data and Cognition in the La Trobe Business School, has launched 'The Perfect Candidate', a website allowing voters to compare their concerns with those of the major party candidates in their electorate. The website draws on a large data set of voter opinion gathered by Roy Morgan Research. The Perfect Candidate has attracted significant media interest and makes clear that voter concerns vary significantly across the country, especially between Victoria and Queensland. This is a challenge for both parties.

New La Trobe Chinese language website now live

Last week La Trobe’s new Chinese language website went live: www.latrobeuniversity.cn

This is an exciting step that enables our international recruitment team to reach prospective students in China and provide them with comprehensive course information directly. Developing the website has been a great demonstration of innovation and collaboration across the University - my thanks to all involved in making this a reality.

Clever conversations

Tickets are still available for the upcoming Bold Thinking Series Federal Election special in early May. The event is hosted by journalist and broadcaster Ali Moore and features La Trobe University teachers and researchers, political scientist Andrea Carson and media expert Nasya Bahfen, for a conversation that cuts through the spin of the 2019 election.

Easter reading

If you’re looking for some quality reading material to enjoy over the Easter break, I’m delighted to announce that La Trobe staff can buy copies of the excellent titles published by La Trobe University Press at a 20% discount. Happy reading!

Wishing you all an enjoyable Easter break.