July 2019

Hello - I hope you have managed some time off over the mid year break. Whether you have been able to escape to warmer climes, or have been shivering in Melbourne (like I have), welcome back.

Gearing up for Open Days

As August approaches many people across the University are hard at work preparing for La Trobe’s Open Day events. Our first two events are next Friday at Shepparton and next Sunday (4 August) at our Melbourne campus.

We’ve got a fantastic program in store to showcase our campuses, courses and facilities to the thousands of prospective students and their families who will be visiting us.

Student experience is at the heart of our University strategic plan, and that experience begins at Open Day as we interact with prospective students and give them insights into what studying at La Trobe is really like. Visitors will tour our campuses - including the new cybersecurity lab at our Melbourne campus, and the new Engineering building and the dog behaviour and cognition lab at Bendigo campus – and take part in some fun activities co-ordinated by our Marketing and Recruitment team.

At Open Day, our staff will be front and centre, resplendent in their red volunteer t-shirts as they answer questions, give directions, and make sure all our guests feel welcome. My sincere thanks to all those who have already committed their time and energy to help ensure our Open Day events are a success. If you’d like to be involved, there’s still time to sign-up as a general volunteer at our Melbourne campus; or chat with your campus contact about how you can help.

All Staff Briefings complete

In the first week of July I participated in All-Staff Briefings at our Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury-Wodonga, Mildura and Melbourne campuses, accompanied by my colleagues from the senior executive team. Thank you to all those who attended, submitted questions and provided feedback on the usefulness of these sessions. The feedback will be used to inform planning for the October briefings.

If you weren’t able to get to a briefing, slides from each campus are available on the intranet, as is a recording of the video from the Melbourne campus event. Owing to time constraints, not all the questions asked via Slido were able to be immediately addressed so we are working to provide responses to these on a dedicated intranet page.

The opportunity to travel to each of our regional campuses and hear from the Heads of Campus about the many activities taking place reinforced to me that we are, indeed, ‘one university, many communities’. I encourage staff – regardless of which campus you are at - to have a look through the Head of Campus presentations at the start of each of the regional slide packages to get a sense of the breadth, quality and diversity of the activities taking place across the University.

Make The Difference Campaign Update

Our ‘Make The Difference’ Campaign is now in its third year and the Alumni & Advancement team continue to make progress towards the 2022 target of $100m. So far, more than 3,000 donors – alumni, staff, individual philanthropists and trusts and foundations – have contributed almost $68m toward a range of projects, including revolutionary research into stroke treatment; chronic fatigue syndrome; the early detection of autism; the health of honey bees and an exciting cross-disciplinary project looking at the historical use and production of Aboriginal food plants. Philanthropy has also established the VV Marshman Rural Health Initiative and many life-changing scholarships.

The scholarships program has been particularly strengthened by the Staff Giving program. Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to offer 14 new scholarships in 2019 to young people who may otherwise not have the chance of a higher education.

The Chancellor hosted his first Chancellor’s Circle event in May. This annual event – which had been dormant for a couple of years – was reignited to thank our most significant donors, including many staff. We were privileged to have a number of scholarship students attend this event, giving them an opportunity to tell donors firsthand the impact philanthropy has had on their lives and studies. Scholarship recipient Erina Zhang, currently a third-year physiotherapy student, shared candidly her personal journey and her sincere gratitude for the scholarship support she has received. In Erina’s words: “…in addition to supporting our wallets and bank accounts, you supported something much more valuable – our hopes, our dreams, and the future of humanity.”

The AAO has also spent much of the year developing our Case for Support; a document that conveys the potential impact that a donor can make upon people, and how La Trobe is uniquely positioned to deliver that impact. Many of you have been involved in the consultation process which took place in April and May, and I thank you for your valuable input. The draft will soon be tested with an external audience to make sure we’ve got our message right and, if so, it will determine the direction and priorities for the remainder of the Campaign. Ultimately, it will ensure that we are set up for the success of the Campaign by the end of 2022. I look forward to sharing the Case for Support with you in the new year.

If any of you are interested in learning more about the Campaign, Staff Giving or have a project that you think is ripe for philanthropic funding, please contact Stephen May, Director of Alumni and Advancement.

Welcome to our new arrivals

Professor Susan Dodds has commenced as La Trobe’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement). Sue is a La Trobe alumna and has come to us from the University of New South Wales where she was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  As her title suggests, Sue’s role includes a focus on our engagement with industry. Working closely with Sue is Dr Megan Fisher, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Industry Engagement), who we welcome from the University of Melbourne (and, before that, CSIRO). Sue and Megan will do all they can to build further our reputation for being an unrivalled partner of choice for external organisations in research.

Two internationally-renowned researchers have also just started at La Trobe in key roles. I’m delighted that Professor Suzanne Fraser has commenced as Director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS); and Professor James Boyd is now installed as Chair of Digital Health in the School of Public Health. Both appointments are in areas of research strength for La Trobe, and I warmly welcome Suzanne and James to the La Trobe community.

Bollywood to Bundoora bound

A touch of Bollywood is coming to the Bundoora campus. Global icon, multi-award winning actor, producer and women’s equality advocate, Shah Rukh Khan, will be there on 9 August – to be awarded with an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), in recognition of his efforts to support underprivileged children, his unwavering dedication to the fight for women’s empowerment and his unparalleled achievements in the Indian entertainment industry.

Tickets for the event sold out in five hours (such is his status in India), but we are making a live stream available for those who cannot be there in person, as well as creating a live site on the academic lawns.

Pathways to success

La Trobe was established to provide access to higher education to those not well served by other universities. That commitment has never wavered: it remains one of our central missions. We believe that all students, regardless of where they may live or grow up, should be able to aspire to a university education.

Roger Gillespie, founder of Bakers Delight and a distinguished La Trobe alumnus, shares that commitment. The Gillespie Foundation recently gave $250,000 to establish the Bradford Shepparton Pathways Program. Named after Roger’s late mother, Audrey May Gillespie (nee Bradford), this program is based on La Trobe’s highly successful Year 11 Pathway to La Trobe program that has already achieved outstanding results in increasing participation rates in higher education for young people in Albury-Wodonga.

As the only truly state-wide university, we know at La Trobe that investment in regional education is a prerequisite for regional economic development. Research shows that those who study in regional areas are more likely to stay and work there, stemming the regional ‘brain drain’.

I’m proud of La Trobe’s contribution to increasing the higher-education aspirations of young people in regional Victoria while also providing the necessary practical support to help them achieve a university education. It’s amazing what we can achieve at La Trobe working in partnership with exceptional La Trobe alumnus like Roger.

Does Australia need a human rights charter?

We’ve been treated to some excellent public events recently, most notably the Ideas & Society discussion of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers who arrive by boat. This was a conversation between Julian Burnside and Father Frank Brennan, and a Skype appearance from Manus Island by Behrouz Boochani, the author of ‘ No Friend But The Mountains’, ably moderated by the Law School’s Dr Madelaine Chiam. Behrouz asked why the Australian Government insists on keeping, at great expense, a relatively small number of people in detention on Manus Island, none of whom want to come to Australia, and seems actively to sabotage attempts by other countries, such as New Zealand, to offer them a home. It’s an important question.

Julian subsequently gave a very well received Fairley-La Trobe lecture on the same topic, this time in Shepparton.

There are some great public lectures still to come. For example, I hope to see you at our discussion between former Australian Human Rights Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs and Professor Greg Craven, the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian Catholic University on whether Australia needs a human rights charter.

You can also join popular children’s author Morris Gleitzman and La Trobe academic Professor Jo Lampert as they ask what topics - if any - are taboo in children’s books.

Have a great August,