5 October 2023
Welcome to my October blog.
Thank you to all staff who showed their support for our new Indigenous Strategy by attending a launch event at one of our campuses, and to celebrate the start of Indigenous Week at La Trobe. I’m sure it helped that it was a magnificently sunny spring day.
There was a huge turnout at the Melbourne campus, where Senior Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO gave a very warm Welcome to Country. Aunty Joy has had a long association with La Trobe and was the University’s inaugural University Elder. I was absolutely delighted to be able to announce at the event that Aunty Joy will soon be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by La Trobe. This recognises her extraordinary contributions to Australian society, especially her work to create positive outcomes for the community through contributions to social justice, Aboriginal Affairs, land rights, equal opportunity, the arts, and reconciliation. We look forward to hosting Aunty Joy at a graduation ceremony to formally bestow her honorary degree.
Our new Indigenous Strategy has been developed in partnership with the Indigenous communities we serve and will enable us to continue to have a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of Indigenous peoples. In my remarks at the launch, I also reinforced the University’s support for Indigenous Peoples’ push for voice, treaty, and truth as described in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and reiterated our commitment to contribute to public discussion about the Voice to Parliament. On Tuesday, we also launched the University’s new Indigenous Research Framework that is being led by Julie Andrews, and discussed the 'Gabra Biik, Wurruwila Wutja' (Clever Country, Clever People) Centre, which is under development.
I’d now like to mention some other recent activities and achievements from across the University.
The La Trobe University Press, our partnership with Black Inc., will publish its 50th book later this year. The Press has been a tremendous success since being launched in 2017 with a mission to bring scholarly works to a general audience. There’s little doubt we’ve succeeded in our aim to publish books of high intellectual quality, originality, and substance.
We’ve also won some of the nation’s most important literary prizes. For example, Ann-Marie Priest’s biography of Gwen Harwood, My Tongue Is My Own: A Life of Gwen Harwood, won the 2023 National Biography Award. The judges praised Ann-Marie’s “scholarship and analysis”, “perceptive understanding of an elusive subject” and “creative approach” in her biography of the poet Gwen Harwood.
Two La Trobe University Press books have been included in the longlist for the Australian Political Book of the Year award. Frank Bongiorno’s history of Australian political life, Dreamers and Schemers: A Political History of Australia, has been longlisted, along with Black Lives, White Law: Locked Up and Locked Out in Australia, a sobering analysis of the ways that Australia’s legal system fails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by Russell Marks, a La Trobe alumnus and Adjunct Research Fellow.
Meanwhile, The Echidna Strategy: Australia’s Search for Power and Peace by Sam Roggeveen, published in August, has generated much discussion about Australia’s security and defence policy in the context of deep shifts in the global power balance affecting our region. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has described the book as essential reading. Sam will be discussing the book at an Australia Institute of Public Affairs event in Melbourne on 18 October. You can register here.
The next La Trobe University Press book, Toby Walsh’s Faking It: Artificial Intelligence in a Human World, is released next week.
Going for gold
La Trobe’s Golden Lanyard Staff Giving Program, the leading staff giving program in the Australian university sector, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year – and there is much to celebrate. More than 1,000 staff have participated in the program over the decade. Your generosity has raised an incredible $995,000, which has supported 84 scholarships for students in need. Some colleagues have also made an enduring commitment by including a gift in their Will to support students and research beyond their own lifetime.
Please consider giving $10 to mark the 10th anniversary this year – and to help us reach the $1 million milestone for staff giving at La Trobe! I also encourage you to hold a morning tea to celebrate.
An emeriti occasion
The University has some 150 emeritus professors and scholars, many of whom are world leaders in their fields. Our emeriti make a big contribution to the intellectual life of the University. We held an event with them earlier this week, which also served as the launch of the refurbished John Scott Meeting House, named after La Trobe’s second Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Scott AO, who died earlier this year. Many of our emeriti knew John and his family well.
We welcomed two of John Scott’s daughters, Rachel and Tess, onto campus for the event. It was great to hear Tess talk about her father, and for Jenny Graves to share her recollections of working with him. I encourage you to borrow a copy of the excellent book edited by William Breen, Building La Trobe University: Reflections on the first 25 years, from the La Trobe library. John contributed a chapter to the volume that includes fascinating insights into developments at the University during his tenure as well as some very amusing anecdotes about meeting deliberations and other goings-on at La Trobe at the time.
I’d also like to acknowledge Shainal Kavar and the team in Information Services, who have done a terrific job in upgrading the AV facilities at the John Scott Meeting House. We’re looking forward to once again using the space to its fullest capacity – for internal meetings and events as well as conferences, seminars, and expos.
Joanna Barbousas and her colleagues in the School of Education are national leaders in delivering evidence-based teacher training. Earlier this year, the effectiveness of the School’s approach was featured in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald and has now been covered in Psychology Today.
The University has also partnered with philanthropic organisation the Mornington Peninsula Foundation to present an annual oration that will see a prominent guest invited each year to speak on a topic of local and national significance. The inaugural oration was delivered last night by University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mark Scott AO, who was the chair of the Federal Government’s Teacher Education Panel. The Panel’s final report emphasises the importance of establishing core content in universities that reflects evidence-based practices and is strongly aligned with La Trobe’s approach.
You might recall that one of our (then) law students, Katta O'Donnell, launched a class action lawsuit against the Commonwealth government in 2020 alleging that investors in Australian-issued bonds had been misled because the Government failed to specify that climate impacts could affect its ability to repay funds. The case has now been settled, with the Treasury’s website expected now to acknowledge that climate change presents a risk to the country’s “economy, regions, industries, and communities”. There’s a terrific article in The Conversation about the stand taken by Katta, who was inspired by a lecture given to her Climate Law Class at La Trobe.
I encourage you to get along to some of the terrific events being held across our campuses during October.
Tonight, Ideas and Society is presenting a discussion about the treatment of people with disability in Australia. Chris Bigby is moderating the event, which features Rhonda Galbally AC, one of the Royal Commissioners into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability that has just handed down its findings. You can register here.
We’re holding the final events of this year’s Research Month, which has been held across September and October, over the next fortnight. Events include the launch of our Indigenous Research Framework, a session to help graduate researchers develop information literacy and information management skills, the launch of our new research impact website, and the Research Infrastructure Expo @ Wodonga.
On 24 October at the Melbourne campus library, Writers on Campus will consider how to create authentic characters for stage and screen. You can register here.
Finally, the John Richards Centre oration will be held on 25 October at our Albury-Wodonga campus (and online). Lauren Rickards, Director of the University’s Climate Change Adaptation Lab, will moderate a discussion about ‘Ageing on Farm: Adaptation and transition in times of change’. More information and registration details are available here.
That’s it for another busy month at La Trobe. Good luck to those teaching in the final weeks of Semester 2. I hope to see you at an event on campus during October.