November 2014


Welcome to my second monthly newsletter capturing some of the highlights, success and events taking place at La Trobe.



2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards

On Friday 31 October I was pleased to join with the Chancellor to recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of six of our most notable alumni.

Each of the recipients had an inspiring story to tell – of a life transformed by the experience of coming to La Trobe and of the extraordinary impact they have had since.

Over the next six weeks, an award recipient will be featured on the University website. This week we feature our Young Achiever, Yanti Turang who is the founder of LearnToLive, an organisation improving the health and wellbeing of people in Indonesia.

You can watch Yanti's interview on the Alumni website.

Shepparton campus 20th anniversary

I had the pleasure of being at our Shepparton campus in late October to mark the 20th anniversary of the campus. This was a great occasion and it was particularly pleasing to see so many alumni of the campus there.

The evening was an opportunity to reflect on the growth of the campus in the last 20 years. In 1994 we had 63 students who could choose to study a Bachelor of Arts, Accounting or Nursing. Lectures were in four rented classrooms. Fast forward to 2014 and we have 616 students enrolled across ten distinct courses. The campus is flourishing with VTAC numbers for 2015 up again.

Over the 20 years we have graduated 1642 students. Some of our alumni spoke of their experience of studying at La Trobe Shepparton – and all told of the opportunity it provided for them that they wouldn't have otherwise had, of the profound difference it made to their lives and of the difference they have subsequently been able to make to their communities.

Many of these people were the first in their families to attend university. This is what we are about – providing people with an opportunity to improve themselves and to do it in their own community.

Higher Education reform debate

The Senate ran out of time last month to debate the higher education reform proposals, so the package will come back to the Senate in late November. It is widely expected that there will be a vote this side of Christmas, though it's still anyone's guess what the outcome will be.

Like other Vice-Chancellors, I support the core ingredients of the proposed package of reforms, although I have serious concerns about some of its aspects – such as the application of the long term bond rate to student debt, the severity of the cut to public subsidy, the proposed Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme and the reduction in RTS funding.

Glyn Davis and I recently published an opinion piece in The Australian arguing in support of the principle of fee deregulation. If the reforms fail, the sector faces an uncertain and possibly troubling future.

You can view the opinion piece on our news website.

While some of the cross bench Senators remain hostile to these changes, their dealings with the Government on the Direct Action climate change legislation show that flexibility is possible.

Golden Lanyard Staff Giving. Changing more lives in 2014

Last month we saw the launch of the 2014 Golden Lanyard Staff Giving campaign. We hope to repeat the success of last year's campaign which, owing to the generosity and commitment of staff, was the most successful of its kind in any Australian University in only its first year and led to the creation of five new scholarships for disadvantaged students.

Thank you to all staff who have joined us in supporting this great initiative already in 2014. It's great to see so many of you wearing those brightly coloured lanyards around the campuses as visible emblems of your support.

It's not too late to get involved.  Gifts can be made at the staff giving website.

All gifts of $20 or more will receive a golden lanyard in acknowledgement of your support.

Watch the video to find out how receiving a Golden Lanyard scholarship made a difference to one student's life.

This year's QS University rankings

Some of you may have seen the outcome of this year's QS worldwide university rankings which were released in early October.  We featured strongly in the top 200 international universities for Arts and Humanities – coming in at 171. In the studies of Social Science and Management we ranked 214 and we made improvements in the Life Sciences and Medicine category where the University rated 340 globally. Congratulations to staff in all these disciplines.

These are truly great results and something that we should all be very proud of. Warm thanks are due to Alistair Duncan from Research Services, who worked hard on our statistical return to the compilers of the rankings.

Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition

We are the proud Learning Partner of "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk" exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) which runs until 8 February 2015. This is the second year of our very successful partnership with the NGV, the first of its kind for the Gallery.

The partnership offers us an opportunity to profile our strengths in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and to position La Trobe in the public mind as a contemporary and progressive thinking university. It also enables the Gallery to extend the reach and impact of its exhibition through the educational program that supports it.

Activities planned as part of the exhibition include:

  • A summer subject on Jean Paul and other artists being presented at the NGV over summer, around the theme of personal identity
  • Friday night events which will include pop up talks from our academics
  • A 'La Trobe Talk' event for high ATAR school students and a career practitioner event
  • Arts mentor day for year 12 leavers

I encourage you to see this stunning exhibition (and don't forget to present your staff card at the ticket box for a staff discount).

I would also like to thank and acknowledge the many staff across the university who have made this exciting partnership possible. In particular, Vanessa Ross, Priscilla Campbell-Wilson and Kate Ring from Marketing and Engagement, Annabel O'Neill from HUSS, Neil Fettling from the La Trobe Art Institute and Isabella Holding from LUMA. Vice-Chancellor's Fellow Emeritus Professor Denis Altman AM, Dr Philippa Rothfield and Dr Carolyn D'Cruz will also participate in the Friday night pop up talks. Well done!

Ideas and Society Program

Last month I had the pleasure of making some opening remarks at the Ideas and Society event 'What's next for journalism?' Our Vice-Chancellor's Fellow, Emeritus Professor Robert Manne, assembled a stellar line-up for the event, with Jonathan Green from ABC Radio Melbourne, Helen Westerman from The Conversation, Dr Fiona Martin from the University of Sydney and our own Dr Lawrie Zion, Head of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Communication.

This has been another wonderful year for the Ideas and Society Program which continues to bring together some of Australia's leading thinkers and public figures to consider the critical questions of our time. This year the program has considered topics including: the prospects of Australian manufacturing; racism in Australia; communicating science; and the power of sport to change the world. Ideas and Society also hosted three sold-out events as part of the Bendigo Writer's Festival.

The Ideas and Society program is an exemplary illustration of La Trobe's distinctive ethos which joins social engagement to the pursuit of academic excellence.

Public Transport Update- Melbourne Campus

Throughout 2014 I have been lobbying both the current State Government and Opposition for improved public transport access to the Melbourne Campus. It is simply not good enough that staff, students and our on-campus partners are faced with poor and confusing public transport options, as well as longer travel times to the Melbourne Campus than those travelling to other metropolitan universities.

I have argued for the creation of a high-frequency express shuttle bus service to operate between Reservoir Train Station and the Melbourne Campus, every 4.5 to 6 minutes from 7:00am until 7:00pm, Monday to Friday during the academic year.

With the state election only weeks away, I am optimistic that the establishment of this vital service will feature in both Liberal and Labor public transport policies.

I was, however, very pleased to welcome a recent announcement by the State Government that a re-elected Napthine Government will allocate $815 million for the Growing Northern Suburbs Transport Package, which includes $20 million to fund ten-minute weekday train services on the South Morang train line. We have been advocating for some time for additional services on this line and this announcement will go a long way towards improving overall staff and student journey times between Melbourne's CBD and the Melbourne Campus.

I hope that I will be able to provide you with further information about the shuttle bus service in my December email.

Rosso goes back in time

On a lighter note, FM radio star and former La Trobe Bachelor of Arts student, Tim Ross ('Rosso' as he's known to his fans) recently visited our Melbourne Campus to settle a comedy score and to try and change his most disappointing university experience- coming second at the Campus Comedy Awards way back in the 1990's.

He recreated that fateful event, with a stand-up show back where all the drama occurred – where else, but the Eagle Bar.

An appreciative and rowdy crowd featuring some of our most talented Drama students witnessed Rosso tell some very good gags as he mused about his time at La Trobe. The comedian spoke especially warmly of his drama course and how it had provided him with a broad array of performing, practical and technical skills.

It was great publicity for La Trobe and our graduates in front of a national audience. Rosso, who hosts the National Drive program on Mix FM majored at La Trobe in history, theatre and drama at La Trobe.

View the footage from the night.