August 2021

I hope you made the most of the winter sunshine we enjoyed last weekend following the lifting of restrictions. It certainly was nice to get out of the house and get some vitamin D.

The Tokyo Olympics have provided a welcome distraction from lockdowns, and from the stresses we are all facing at work at the moment. There have been some wonderful performances, especially by Australia’s swimming team – including our business student Brendon Smith who swam brilliantly in the final of the men’s 400m individual medley. This event is regarded as one of the most difficult swimming events since it requires endurance, power, strategic thinking – and, of course, proficiency in every stroke. It was a thrill to watch Brendon win bronze and claim Australia’s first medal of the Tokyo Games.

I’ll also be barracking for our PhD student Bree Mellberg when she takes to the court in the Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team at the Paralympic Games commencing on 24 August. Bree will join our other Paralympic athletes – BA students Emily Beecroft and Ahmed Kelly, and Bachelor of Education student Jeremy Tyndall. Good luck to all!

Commiserations, though, to the Matildas who narrowly lost to Sweden in the soccer semi-final, and best of luck to them in their game against the USA for the bronze medal. We look forward to welcoming the Matildas to Bundoora in 2023 when their dedicated training facility will open in time for the next Women’s World Cup.

There have also been many achievements across the University in recent weeks and I’d like to mention a few of them in this month’s blog.


Open for business

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to deliver one of our most important student recruitment events, Virtual Open Day, last Sunday. Our staff did an amazing job to present more than 100 pre-recorded videos and live Q and A sessions as well as virtual tours of our facilities for prospective students. I’m very grateful to the 60 academics, students and alumni who provided their insights on the day about courses and career opportunities in 11 of our most popular study areas. We had more than 7,000 people register to attend our Virtual Open Day, and our teams will continue to engage with these prospective students virtually throughout the month.

Many staff worked incredibly hard behind the scenes over the last few months to produce, support and promote Virtual Open Day, led by the Marketing and Recruitment division with support and involvement from academic and professional staff in the Colleges and Schools, teams in the DVC Students and Education portfolios, La Trobe International, Information Services, and Infrastructure and Operations. Thank you for your great team effort!


Having an impact

I’m sure that we are all proud of La Trobe’s ranking in the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking that measures our role in furthering the UN sustainable development goals. You’ll be pleased to know that we’ve also been rated highly in a new ranking, the World’s Universities with Real Impact, that aims to measure the efforts of universities around the world to contribute to society.

The ranking is organised by the Institute for Policy and Strategy on National Competitiveness in South Korea and assesses institutions on factors such as entrepreneurship, industrial applications of their work, social responsibility and ethics, student mobility and openness for exchange and collaboration across national borders. In the latest edition of the ranking, La Trobe was rated 84th in the world for our overall impact, 29th in the world for Ethical Values, and 33rd for Student Mobility and Openness.


Research that counts

La Trobe’s mathematics and statistics lecturer Rebecca Chisholm is bringing her expertise to bear on protecting Indigenous Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Indigenous Australians have a life expectancy that is some eight years less than non-Indigenous Australians, and experience poorer health outcomes overall, vulnerable Indigenous people, especially those inote communities, are currently about six times less likely to contract COVID-19 than non-Indigenous people. One of the reasons for this is the use of mathematical models to help guide the response to managing COVID-19 in Indigenous communities in regional and remote areas. Well done to Rebecca on her role in this project, which is a terrific example of research translation.


Cyber ready

La Trobe has been awarded $2.35 million from the Commonwealth Government’s Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund to work with industry partners to improve Australia’s cyber security capability. The funding will support us to do this through industry placements, work experience programs and initiatives to raise awareness about cyber security for secondary school students.

We assembled an impressive list of industry partners to work with us on this. As well as our technology partners Cisco and Optus, we’re working alongside STEM education centre Quantum Victoria, online education provider Wiley, experiential learning company Practera, technical services firm GHD, and career transition advisers War on Wasted Talent. Well done to all involved.


Events

I’m grateful to Glyn Davis, CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, and former University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, for his terrific Fairley La Trobe lecture delivered on 21 July. Glyn’s talk, On Life’s Lottery, considered entrenched inter-generational poverty in Australia and the effectiveness of addressing poverty through collective effort, including some successful social projects in Shepparton. You can watch Glyn’s talk on demand.

Public scholarship has always been an important part of La Trobe’s mission. We have an enviable reputation for contributing to discussion of the big issues facing the world and our region. Our standing is set to rise further with a huge number of registrations already received for an event co-presented by the Ideas and Society program and La Trobe Asia on 10 August. Bec Strating will discuss some of the most critical questions posed for Australia and the world by China’s rapid rise with former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull. I encourage you to register now so you don’t miss what promises to be a fascinating discussion.

Finally, on 24 August, we’re presenting an important event for La Trobe staff who are interested in the exposure to fossil fuels in their superannuation investment portfolios. Katie Holmes will introduce and moderate a discussion with UniSuper’s Chief Investment Officer, John Pearce, who will talk about UniSuper’s investment policies and its approach to addressing climate change. Finance expert Phil Dolan, an Adjunct Professor in the La Trobe Business School and former Acting Provost of ASSC College, will also join the discussion. Staff can now register for the event and will have an opportunity to ask questions during a Q and A session.


Consultation still open

Thank you to the many staff who have already made submissions on the change proposals; and a reminder that consultation remains open for those who still want to have a say.

That’s it for another month at La Trobe. Thank you to all of you for your hard work at what is a difficult time.

John