July 2016

Hello there,

First of all, a big thank you to everyone for working so hard to complete the marking, entering and uploading of results for semester 1 exams. I know that this has been a huge team effort from everyone. I hope you have had a chance to take a bit of a breather at this midpoint of the year.

Election update

At the time of writing, it is unclear what the outcome of the Federal election will be following the national swing to the ALP and minor parties, which has seemingly left neither major party with an outright majority. Even if the Coalition is able to form government, their chances of securing Senate support for any legislative package of higher education reforms remains as remote as ever.

The Coalition election platform included significant cuts to per student funding – one of the so-called ‘zombie cuts’ that remain in the budget forward estimates but have yet to be legislated. Given that these will be opposed by the ALP and the Greens in the Senate, the government will need support from a significant number of the new cross Senate bench to get them through – which at the moment seems unlikely.

However, there are some cuts to spending announced in the 2016 budget that the ALP said they would implement if in government (with some differences in the detail). These include changes to indexation rates and to HECS repayment thresholds, and ending concessional arrangements for students studying certain prescribed disciplines. Assuming that the ALP doesn’t change its position on this, it’s possible that some or all of these changes could be supported in the new Senate. The combined effect would be to reduce University revenues and increase student repayments.

There are a number of other measures that a government could introduce without legislation, including further cuts to the HEPP program that supports outreach and participation.

Having said that, predicting what will happen in Australian politics is a risky business at the moment, so we will just have to wait and see. But a further period of uncertainty in the higher education policy landscape now seems probable.

La Trobe further strengthens sport credentials

I was at AAMI Park recently for the launch of the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, which has been established under the leadership of Professor Jill Cook, who joined us from Monash, and Professor Kay Crossley, who came to La Trobe from The University of Queensland.

Recruiting these internationally-renowned experts to head up the new Centre has firmly cemented our position as Australia's leading university for sports medicine research. The Centre’s achievements, outlined on the night by Professor Crossley, are already impressive after a very short period of time. The event was MC’d by Peter Brukner, a world renowned specialist sports physician who many of you may know is also the Australian cricket team doctor. Peter is part of our exercise medicine research team, having joined La Trobe in an Honorary Professorial role in 2014.

Professor Pike ponders piglet pineapple proposal

Congratulations to Professor Rob Pike whose industry collaboration with ASX-listed company Anatara Lifesciences recently attracted some strong media and community attention.

Anatara was founded by La Trobe University graduate Dr Tracey Mynott, who made the original discoveries underlying this work while studying here 30 years ago. The company is working with the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science team to refine a chemical compound found in pineapples that could reduce the use of antibiotics in commercial pig farming, which in turn will help remove the drug from the food chain. Professor Pike is using recombinant DNA technology to isolate and produce the two relevant proteins.

Bendigo Writers Festival goes global

La Trobe University is once again proud sponsor of Bendigo Writers Festival. Now in its fifth year, the Festival will be held from 12-14 August and gets bigger and better each year.

This year, there will be more La Trobe involvement than ever - with more than 20 La Trobe academics and staff members participating as speakers, interviewers and panel members, and many more staff and students working as volunteers.

The program includes our long-running schools day, Text Marks the Spot, curated by Dr Sarah Mayor Cox and Dr Sue Gillett. One highlight will be Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, Emeritus Professor Robert Manne, interviewing Julian Assange via live video link as part of the Ideas and Society series. Sue Gillet’s ever-popular Writers in Action subject is, again, embedded in the Festival (a bit more about that below).

Tickets are available from the Bendigo Writers Festival website. I urge you to take a look at the program - there is something there for everyone.

Writers in Action continues to expand

La Trobe’s pioneering suite of place-based subjects in regional Victoria continues to grow. This year we will be offering three instances of our successful Writers in Action subject embedded in the Mildura Writers Festival, the Bendigo Writers Festival and, for the first time, Write Around the Murray in Albury.

Writers in Action provides industry experience for our students, engages with regional communities and strengthens relationships with key partners. Students actively participate in the festival as writers, critics, journalists, publicists, researchers and bloggers, providing a unique learning environment as well as valuable networking and potential employment opportunities with experienced authors, media personalities and other major players in the writing world.

Writers in Action is open to La Trobe students from any campus and members of the general public.

Back by popular demand – La Trobe 101

We had great feedback from staff on our first La Trobe 101 events earlier this year. So much so, that we are doing it again later this month.

101 is a chance for you all to get more information about the administrative, teaching, learning and research assistance available from La Trobe’s College and Central Support teams.

Sessions will include practical face-to-face training sessions on the systems and processes that are relevant to you. It all takes place in the week commencing 18 July, to ensure semester 2 starts as smoothly as possible for you.

All staff are encouraged to view the event schedules and book in to attend via the intranet link above.

Bound for Washington

I will be in Washington next week for the Australian American Leadership Dialogue (AALD), a diplomatic initiative that brings together Australian and American leaders across a range of sectors to develop and underpin the Australian-American bilateral relationship. The AALD is also a great way of making contact with US counterparts, and has already helped us to establish valuable partnerships in areas relating to STEM and cyber security.

I will be hosting some of our US alumni at events during the week and will be meeting with US universities to discuss areas of mutual interest and possible future partnerships. I’ll also be visiting Silicon Valley on my return to talk to potential partners for our new La Trobe Accelerator Program, due to be launched next year.

Have a great July.