July 2022

8 July 2022

Welcome to my July blog.

Congratulations to all our teaching and support staff on successfully delivering another semester of hybrid teaching and learning activity. I know it’s school holidays now, so I hope those of you with school-aged children have been able to have some time off from the University or at least manage the challenges of juggling work and school holiday activities.

I have been in Canberra this week for the annual Universities Australia conference. After two years of holding discussions remotely, it was great finally to meet up with colleagues in person to discuss the issues facing our sector.

Traditionally, the UA conference kicks off with the Chair of UA delivering a speech to the National Press Club – so, this year, as the current Chair of UA, it was my turn. While it was a nerve-wracking experience to be live on national television in front of journalists who can (and did) ask anything they like, the response to the speech has been very positive. Even The Australian editorialised the day after that Government should invest more in our universities as engines of opportunity and prosperity – which was precisely the main message of the speech.

Delegates were also privileged to hear our new Education Minister, Jason Clare, deliver his first major speech on higher education. It was a terrific speech in which he reaffirmed his commitment to promoting equity and participation in our universities and to the development of an ‘Accord’ with the university sector. The speech included some important announcements, including a planned review of the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Quoting Paul Keating, he described himself as a ‘harvester of great ideas’, and he has certainly been true to that self-description. He has visited many university campuses already, including La Trobe’s Bundoora campus, and is a very good listener. He also quoted John Curtin: “The great university should find its heroes in the present; its hope in the future; it should look ever forward; for it the past should be but a preparation for the greater days to be”.

Closer to home, I’d like to encourage you to support suppliers on our campuses. Whether it’s getting a coffee in the morning or picking up some lunch, it’s always nice to get out of the office to stretch your legs and see students and colleagues – and at the same time you can support our vendors who continue to face challenges in making ends meet. If you work at the Bundoora campus, you can also make the most of the IGA in the Agora, which has a great range of groceries. I know that some staff have been able to grab some at the end of day before heading home. The more we use it, the wider range of stock they will be able to carry.

As usual, I’d now like to share news of some recent achievements and activities across the University.

Philosophically speaking

Warmest congratulations to Professor Sue Dodds, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement), who has been appointed to the ARC’s Advisory Council by our new Minister. This means that the Humanities do, after all, have a voice on the Council, having been excluded (presumably intentionally) by the previous government. This is a fitting recognition of Sue’s significant standing in the sector and follows her appointment as the Chair of UA’s DVC Research Committee.

World-class rating

La Trobe was named as one of the world’s leading universities in the QS World University Rankings released in June. Rising by 46 places to 316 globally is a wonderful result – and is only possible because of the hard work and dedication of our staff.

I hope you take pride in our University being so well regarded on the international stage, with La Trobe reaching its best QS Rankings position since the current QS ranking system began, and improving more than any other Australian university in this year’s rankings. QS described La Trobe’s increase in citations since 2016 as ‘extraordinary’ and I can only echo their praise – well done to all involved!

I’d also like to acknowledge the great work of Alistair Duncan and his team in the Research Office, who work hard every year to improve our data returns to the ranking agencies.

A worthy cause

We held two events in late June to celebrate the success of our Make the Difference fundraising campaign and launch the next stage of the campaign.

Chancellor John Brumby presided over a terrific night at the State Library of Victoria with some of our biggest supporters, including the Beluga Foundation who have made a $6m gift to support trials of Chris Sobey’s revolutionary stroke treatment.

The Chancellor was then joined in Bendigo by some of our regional supporters including Dr Bill and Carol Holsworth, who have been very generous sponsors of our work in Bendigo for many years. We were also delighted to be joined by one of Australia’s foremost artists, Emily Floyd, and gallerist Anna Schwartz, who donated some important art works to the University – the most significant of which is a sculpture called ‘Anti-totalitarian ventures’, a tribute to the philosopher Agnes Heller who, incidentally, taught at La Trobe from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. I urge you to visit the work, and its accompanying speech bubbles, on Level 2 of the Heyward Library on our Bendigo campus.

The value of hard work

Warm congratulations to La Trobe PhD candidate Deanna Tepper whose research into links between children's daily chores and executive functioning received some great media coverage last month. I can only imagine how parents must have rejoiced in seeing Deanna show how children’s chores improve their brain function – I wish I could have pointed to this evidence when my kids were little.

Leading paramedic

La Trobe is rightly known as one of the best universities in Australia for our health research and teaching programs, including our world-class paramedicine program taught at the La Trobe Rural Health School. It was great to see David Burns, a Lecturer in Paramedicine in Bendigo, appointed as Victoria’s Acting Chief Paramedic Officer during May. Well done David – this prestigious appointment is testament to your professional leadership in the paramedic sector and your expertise in a role that has a unique clinical skill set.

Well-earned honours

I was really pleased that two brilliant La Trobe women were made Members of the Order of Australia in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Kay Crossley’s work in sports and exercise medicine and Cheryl Dissanayake’s leadership on autism spectrum disorder have made a real difference in the lives of numerous individuals and their families. Well done Cheryl and Kay!

And congratulations to the many other La Trobe people who were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours – we’re proud of all of the staff, former staff, and alumni who received honours and are very pleased to share in your success.

Taking it public

I look forward to working with Clare Wright in her new part-time role as the University’s Professor of Public Engagement. Clare is well-placed to help showcase our researchers and their work to public audiences through online platforms, podcasts, and other digital technologies. She will also mentor staff to help them build their capability to engage with the general public about their research. Clare’s podcast with Yves Rees, Archive Fever, is currently featured by Apple on their Australian promotional page, which is sure to boost its audience and reach even further.

Archive Fever follows hot on the heels of the brilliant Below the Line election podcast co-presented by La Trobe University and The Conversation and featuring our fabulous Journalism academic Andrea Carson. It demonstrates very effectively how university experts can provide quality, unbiased analysis with a depth that you don’t often get in the mainstream media.

Keep it dry

Dry July is a terrific fundraiser that encourages people to go alcohol-free in July to raise funds for those affected by cancer. Please consider supporting the ‘La Trobe University - Dry Ducks’ team that includes Jess Vanderlelie and Mark Smith from our Senior Executive Group and 12 other La Trobe staff. At the time of writing, the team had already raised more than $4,000!

La Trobe Fairley lecture

Each year the University partners with the Fairley Foundation to present a lecture from a prominent Australian at our campus in Shepparton. This year’s lecture is being delivered on 20 July by Tanya Hosch, the AFL’s General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy and the 2021 South Australian of the Year. Tanya will talk about the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our society and affirm Indigenous peoples’ role in shaping regional Australia.

Ideas and Society

Our VC’s Fellow Rob Manne is presenting the La Trobe University Ideas and Society program for a thirteenth year in 2022. So far this year, Rob has curated important discussions on the crisis in our aged care homes and Australia’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The next ‘Ideas and Society’ event will bring together experts to talk about the heartbreaking war in the Ukraine. Professor Martin Krygier AM from UNSW will moderate a discussion with former Defence Department Deputy Secretary Professor Paul Dibb AM, La Trobe’s expert on Russian politics Dr Robert Horvath, and former Legal Specialist in DFAT Dr Carrie McDougall.

Open for business

Finally, I’m looking forward to the 2022 Open Days across our campuses during August. Open Day is one of the most important ways of promoting our courses and showcasing our campuses, as we welcome future students and their families to discover why La Trobe is a such a great place to study.

Our University Events team do an incredible job in coordinating many moving parts for our Open Days each year, but we need some extra pairs of hands to help on the day. I encourage you to volunteer to help out during this year’s Open Days and be part of what is always a great atmosphere on campus. You can email events@latrobe.edu.au to get involved.

In closing

That’s it for another busy month at La Trobe. Stay warm – and I look forward to seeing you on campus during Semester 2.