June 2023

9 June 2023

Welcome to this special edition of the Vice-Chancellor’s monthly blog.

I am Acting Vice-Chancellor this week while Professor Dewar is in the United Kingdom visiting our partner Sheffield Hallam University to announce our new joint Global Security and Society Institute.

Building on a well-established partnership between our two universities, the new Institute will help tackle complex global security challenges. This includes sophisticated cybercrime and cyberterrorism, the growth of artificial intelligence, and modern slavery.

Our research strengths in the humanities, most notably in international relations, foreign and defence policy, will complement Sheffield Hallam’s strengths in terrorism and international conflict, to generate new research and teaching ideas, connections and opportunities. Congratulations to La Trobe leads Associate Professor Bec Strating, Professor Andrea Carson and Dr Kane Middleton on their contributions to the Institute.

The end of May also marked the conclusion of Professor Dewar’s term as Chair of Universities Australia, the peak body for Australia’s universities. I’d like to acknowledge John for his national leadership over the past two years, a period that included implementation of the former Government’s Job Ready Graduates legislation, a new Federal Government and Education Minister, and the establishment of the Universities Accord Review Panel. The new Chair of Universities Australia is Vice-Chancellor Professor David Lloyd (University of South Australia).

I’d like to mention a few recent highlights from across our University and also take the opportunity to recognise some of the great work underway in our Research and Industry Engagement portfolio.

ARC Early Career Industry Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr Brooke Patterson, a Research Fellow at the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, who has been awarded $448,222 in the first round of the new Australian Research Council (ARC) Early Career Industry Fellowship Program.

A former AFL player and coach, Brooke is passionate about supporting high-performing women in sport. Brooke’s Industry Fellowship project will evaluate training strategies that build high performing women football players, reduce injuries and drop-out rates, maximise the commercialisation of women’s sport, and increase the visibility of high performing women in society.

Brooke also co-designed the AFL injury prevention program Prep-to-Play, which is operating in 165 women’s and girls’ community Australian football teams, and she is currently conducting a large clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

Creating a standard for soil health and sustainability

Well done to La Trobe soil microbial ecologist Dr Jen Wood, who has received a $333,680 grant from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of the National Agriculture Traceability Sustainability Reporting Uplift program.

Jen’s project, Harnessing soil microbial traits to benchmark soil health for sustainability reporting, involves the development of a standard for soil health to enable agricultural producers and growers to demonstrate that the practices they adopt are sustainably managing soil health. Currently, no standard exists for soil health despite the Australian Agriculture Sustainability Framework, developed by every major agricultural sector peak body, unanimously identifying the maintenance of soil health as a key principle and priority.

With consumers placing increasing importance on information about how food and ingredients are grown, manufactured and handled, Dr Wood’s impactful research investigating soil microbiology has the potential to improve agricultural practices and improve traceability through soil health standards.

Kickstarting MRFF applications

It’s important to support and prepare researchers at all stages of their careers to develop high quality applications to attract funding to support their research.

Following a competitive process, six La Trobe researchers have been awarded internal funding to kickstart future Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) applications.

Created by Research Theme Leads Professor Richard Gray and Professor Patrick Humbert, the MRFF Kickstarter Scheme provides funding for researchers to develop new project proposals in 2023 which will position them to be competitive for submission to the MRFF in 2024.

Consultation on medical research funding

The Federal Government has recently commenced consultation on the governance and administration of the MRFF and the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Medical Research Endowment Account. Together, the two funds award more than $1.5 billion in health and medical research grants each year.

The consultation process provides an opportunity for researchers, industry and health service providers to share views on how the two medical research funds can be governed and improved to best support the strategic interests of Australia’s medical research ecosystem.

The University will make a submission and more information can be found on the Department of Health and Aged Care’s consultation hub.

The case for support

La Trobe is widely known as one of the best universities in Australia for teacher education and our work to increase higher education participation for regional students.

It’s fantastic to see this recognised through new philanthropic funding that will support the expansion of two successful programs.

The first is the School of Education’s ‘Science of Language and Reading’ (SOLAR) Lab, which has received $2.5 million from the Bertalli Foundation to support the creation of evidence-based reading and writing clinics at our Bendigo and Bundoora campuses. The gift will also support a program for schools that excel in using the science of learning techniques to become regional hubs to showcase best practice to other schools.

The second initiative is the successful Bradford Shepparton Pathways Program, which has received a further $1 million from the Gillespie Family Foundation to expand its work with regional high school students and support greater participation in higher education. The gift is contingent on La Trobe raising matched philanthropic funding and, to that end, our Chancellor the Hon. John Brumby AO recently chaired roundtable events in Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton to brief local community members on the program and enlist their input and support for expanding its reach and impact.

An Australian first for the Care Economy

La Trobe is now home to Australia’s first Care Economy Research Institute (CERI) that will expand the University’s exceptional research and teaching capability in the health and social care sectors.

Led by Professor Irene Blackberry, the Institute connects the diverse care and support sectors as one industry in Australia with the aim to break down silos across the Care Economy. La Trobe will invest substantially in CERI over the next five years to support our researchers and industry partners who are finding evidence-based solutions and deploying new technologies to better connect health and social care.

The Care Economy is rapidly growing, and our dedicated Institute positions La Trobe as a national and global leader of targeted research for health and social care services. This exciting new research initiative will improve and connect the Care Economy and provide greater support for people that rely on these services.

Read more about the new Institute here.

La Trobe University Press publication on global stage

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met several prominent Australians on his recent visit to Australia, including La Trobe University Press author Scientia Professor Toby Walsh (UNSW) to discuss the impact of artificial intelligence and futuristic technology on future life and society.

Professor Walsh gave Prime Minister Modi a copy of the Indian edition of his La Trobe University Press publication 2062: The World that AI Made.

Since its launch in 2017, La Trobe University Press has earnt a reputation for publishing written works of originality and substance. You can subscribe to the newsletter here and keep an eye out in La Trobe News for opportunities to win new publications from time to time.

New View St façade

There’s still plenty of time to visit and learn about the research behind the current façade at the La Trobe Art Institute in View Street, Bendigo, by artist Calista Lyon and historian and academic Charles Fahey.

Remembering future draws from historical and contemporary imagery to map the ecological impact of gold mining on the box-ironbark forest, which spans the goldfields in Victoria and is considered one of the most endangered habitats in Australia.

The façade commission commemorates National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week 2023 and will conclude on 31 July.

If you get an opportunity to visit the Art Institute, you should also check out its latest exhibition Maternal inheritances, curated by La Trobe’s Amelia Wallin. Maternal inheritances is an exhibition of Australian and international artists that explores the entanglements of motherhood and matriarchy with ideas of genealogy, influence and impact. More information can be found here.

Statistics Platform workshops

Are you keen to take your statistical computing and graphic representation skills to the next level? The Statistics Consultancy Platform will run a series of introductory and intermediary statistics software workshops for researchers and HDR students in June. There is a significant discount for participating La Trobe students and staff, with workshops being held on campus in Bundoora and online. A basic understanding of statistics is helpful, but not essential. View the scheduled workshop dates here.

Upcoming public event – Origins: of universe, life, species and humanity

I am very excited to report that next month, the Heidelberg Choral Society will perform Origins, a new oratorio by La Trobe distinguished Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow Professor Jenny Graves AC, poet Leigh Hay and Australian composer Nicholas Buc. Backed by a full orchestra, Origins is a breath-taking libretto inspired by cosmology, evolution, genetics and anthropology that describes our origins from the Big Bang to the emergence of humanity.

Origins will be performed on 18 July at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Tickets are still available and can be purchased from the Melbourne Recital Centre.

In closing

That’s all for another month at La Trobe and the end of first Semester in 2023. Best of luck to our staff and students who are currently in exams ahead of planning for second Semester.

To find out more about the initiatives underway in La Trobe’s Research and Industry Engagement portfolio, feel free to email me or get in touch with our Industry Engagement team or the Research Office.


Professor Susan Dodds, Acting Vice-Chancellor