September 2023

7 September 2023

Welcome to my September blog.

Unusually mild spring weather meant that we enjoyed sunny Open Days across all our campuses for what has proved to be one of our most successful Open Day seasons ever. More than 29,000 visitors joined us, up 25 per cent on last year.

This is a fantastic outcome. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make Open Day 2023 such a success, including staff from all our Schools and teams from the Library, La Trobe Sport, Student Recruitment, Marketing, Digital and Insights, Media and Communications, Infrastructure and Operations, University Events, and colleagues across our regional campuses. We received excellent feedback from visitors about our courses, our resources and facilities, and our friendly staff. The hard work of converting this extraordinary level of interest in La Trobe into enrolments for 2024 starts now.

Meanwhile, development of the Australian Universities Accord continues. Responses to the Review Panel’s Interim Report were due last Friday. La Trobe’s response expresses support for many elements of the Interim Report but emphasises the importance of providing clarity on how the very significant projected growth in higher education participation and attainment set out in the Report (a doubling of the number of students in the higher education sector by 2050) will be achieved. We need to start thinking about the type of institutions that will be expected to deliver this scale of growth, especially if new kinds of institutions are to be established.

The La Trobe submission includes recommendations to help identify disadvantage and the reasons for lower participation and attainment among equity cohorts, along with more alternative pathways and stronger provisions to deal with cost-of-living barriers to higher education participation. The Accord Review Panel is due to finalise its recommendations by the end of the year.

I’d now like to share some recent achievements and activities from across the University.

Stand out performers

Warm congratulations to the three La Trobe finalists in the 2023 Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards.

Andrea Carson was a very deserving finalist in the Emerging Leader category for her global leadership in mis/disinformation research.

It was fantastic to see the tangible outcomes delivered by the La Trobe Albury-Wodonga and Bradford Shepparton Pathway Programs recognised in the Equity and Access category, and the My Career program, developed for our Bachelor of Health Science graduates, named a finalist in the Employment category.

And well done to Adam Culvenor from the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, who is a national expert on anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries. Adam has just been selected as a finalist for the Australian Institute of Policy and Science 2023 Victorian Young Tall Poppy Science Awards. Well done, Adam!

Research for the future

Warm congratulations to Thanh Kha Phan, Emma Russell, Jenna Crowe-Riddell, David Deane, Lucille Chapuis, and Julia Dehm on being awarded funding under the ARC’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme that supports early career researchers. There is intense competition for these grants – winning a DECRA means these colleagues are regarded as amongst the nation’s most promising researchers.

La Trobe’s success rate of 38 per cent in this funding round was almost double the national average of 20 per cent. Well done to Deepa Balakrishnan and her colleagues in our research grant development and transformation team, who do a terrific job in supporting our grant applications.

Going green

All of our regional campuses have now achieved Net Zero emissions status. The Albury-Wodonga and Bendigo campuses were the latest to achieve certification following mechanical system upgrades and the installation of rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, and energy efficient LED lights. It’s a fantastic milestone to be Net Zero across the regions, which will have long-term operating cost savings as well as environmental benefits.

The University is also a finalist in the Student Engagement category of the 2023 Green Gown Awards for our Sustainability Leaders Program that includes a reusable crockery program at the Melbourne campus, programs to increase knowledge and empower students to reduce waste contamination and promote best practice, and an initiative that has reduced waste contamination in on-campus residences by up to 40 per cent.

When in Athens

I was pleased to be at the NGV last week to introduce the 2023 Trendall Lecture Theseus in Magna Graecia: An Athenian Hero Travels West by Alan Shapiro from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This was the first time in three years that this annual lecture, presented by the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies, had been held in person (as well as a live stream).

The Trendall Centre, housed in the upper reaches of Glenn College, is home to the Trendall collection of ancient Mediterranean red figure vases and a huge collection of monographs, journals and offprints dealing with ancient Mediterranean studies. The Centre is housed in what used to be Trendall’s apartment, which was specifically designed for him by Glenn College architect, Robin Boyd. The apartment has been preserved in almost exactly the condition it would have been in when Trendall lived there. It’s a fascinating step back in time for anyone interested in mid-20th century architecture, and Robin Boyd’s work in particular. I encourage any interested staff to contact the Centre Director, Gillian Shepherd, to make an appointment to visit.

A team from the Trendall Centre, led by its founding director Ian McPhee, is also collaborating with the NGV to publish a catalogue (or Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum) of the NGV’s remarkable collection of ancient Greek and South Italian vases (which Dale Trendall helped to develop).

Going for gold

Well done to Russell Hoye, and Jai Haddock and Nick Lambert from La Trobe Sport, on achieving gold accreditation for La Trobe from the International University Sports Federation’s healthy campus program. We are now one of only two Australian universities to achieve this status, which recognises programs to improve the wellbeing of students and staff in areas such as sport and physical activity, nutrition, disease prevention, mental and social health, risk behaviour and environment, and sustainability and social responsibility.

Sporting partners

It was wonderful how all Australians got behind The Matildas during the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The University was proud to play a small part in the team’s success in the tournament, through the home base to The Matildas at the La Trobe Sports Park at the Melbourne campus. The Jamaican women’s team, who performed well beyond expectations, trained at the Sports Park during the tournament.

We already have many community users coming onto campus each week to use our sports facilities, and the Melbourne Victory Women’s team will play all their home A-League Women’s matches there. With so many young people inspired by Matildas stars like Mary Fowler, Sam Kerr, and Mackenzie Arnold, we look forward to welcoming many more young female footballers onto campus in the years ahead.

Future students

Some talented artists from the La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre visited my office last week. It was great fun to meet students from the Bunjil Room (3 to 4-year-olds) and Eagle Room (4 to 5-year-olds). I read Elmer the Elephant to them before they presented me with a wonderful ‘Bunjil the Eagle’ collage they had worked on together. Thanks to Centre Manager Carolyne Jones, administrator Cheri Bruhn, and educator Harjinder Kaur for bringing the children over to the David Myers Building.

Public scholarship

The latest publication from the La Trobe University Press, The Echidna Strategy: Australia’s Search for Power and Peace by Sam Roggeveen, Director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, was published last week. It’s already stimulating debate about Australia’s security and defence policy in the wake of shifts in the global power balance affecting our region, with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull describing it as “essential reading”. The book has also been discussed on the ANU Australia Studies Institute’s ‘Democracy Sausage’ podcast and Phillip Adams’ Radio National program.

Later this month, the La Trobe University Press will publish its next book, Divided Isles: Solomon Islands and the China Switch, an analysis of another important geopolitical event in Australia’s region.

While on public scholarship, I’ve been following Professor Clare Wright’s media appearances as she explains how the Yes campaign came to acquire the permission to use John Farnham’s ‘The Voice’ as the soundtrack to the latest ad campaign for the Yes vote. It all started while she was staring out of the window of her Bundoora office!

Upcoming events

The next Ideas and Society event on 5 October will bring together experts to talk about the treatment of people with disability in Australia. Director of La Trobe’s Living with Disability Research Centre, Chris Bigby, will moderate a discussion with experts including Disability Royal Commissioner Rhonda Galbally and Micheline Lee, author of a new Quarterly Essay called ‘Lifeboat: Disability, Humanity and the NDIS’. You can register here.

In closing

That’s it for another very busy month at La Trobe. I hope you enjoy the spring weather and look forward to seeing you around campus. In the meantime, don’t forget to nominate your colleagues for our 2023 staff awards. Nominations close on 27 September.