Health sciences amalgamation boost professional courses

Anticipating moves for higher education amalgamations under the ALP’s Dawkins reforms, in 1988 La Trobe voluntarily merged with the Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences to establish the Lincoln School of Health Sciences.

Most of the Institute’s courses were then housed in Carlton, except nursing, which was at the historic Abbotsford Convent. The merger provided us with a much needed boost of professional disciplines ­– including physiotherapy, communication disorders, occupational therapy, orthoptics and podiatry – and 2,500 extra students.

New teaching and clinical buildings were soon built on the Melbourne Campus at Bundoora for the re-named Faculty of Health Sciences. Led by Dean Stephen Duckett, a health economist and manager who had run both state and federal health departments, and later by health policy and program specialist Hal Swerissen, and public health expert Vivian Lin, it became one of the country’s top health sciences faculties.

Two of its research groups are of particular national significance.  One is the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. People including foundation director Doreen Rosenthal, researchers Marian Pitts, Anthony Smith, Gary Dowsett, and AIDS educator Anne Mitchell, have illuminated the often hidden link between sex, health and relationships.

The Centre for Mother, Infant and Family Health Research, now the Judith Lumley Centre, named after its founder, has forged an equally strong reputation in its field, through the efforts of Lisa Amir, Angela Taft, Rhonda Small and, more recently, its inaugural Roberta Holmes Professor Jan Nicholson, who runs La Trobe’s Transition to Contemporary Parenthood Program.

Through these and other groups including the Bouverie Centre, La Trobe research has influenced much public health practice and policy over the decades, from mental health service de-institutionalisation and aged care to sexual, maternal, child and rural health. In 2013 a dedicated Rural Health School was established. Based on the Bendigo Campus, it spans all regional campuses.