Indigenous La Trobe – At a glance

The area that the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary now occupies was once inhabited by Aborigines who were aligned to the Kurnaj-berring tribe of the Wurundjeri clan.

No one knows how long the area has been used by humans, but it is probably at least several thousand years. Unfortunately, much of the Aboriginal history of the area was lost very early after the arrival of Europeans.

In this area, many large wetlands existed which were frequently used by the local Aborigines. Early Europeans in the area observed the rich nature of these wetlands, in particular the abundance of wetland birds such as Brolgas and ducks. Even during prolonged droughts wetlands provided a plentiful supply of edible plants, eels, freshwater mussels, fish, snakes and snaked-necked tortoises.

Evidence of the use by Aborigines of the area is observable in the scars on trees and fragments of stone tools.

  • 1970: First Indigenous enrolment, Peter Nicholls, Diploma of Business Accounting
  • 1975: First male Indigenous graduate, Peter Nicholls, completed a Diploma of Business Accounting at Bendigo Campus
  • 1979: First female Indigenous graduate, Karen Nicholls, completed her Diploma of Teaching (Primary) at Bendigo Campus
  • 1996: First Indigenous PhD graduate, Gaye Sculthorpe (Anthropology)
  • 1999: Inaugural Hyllus Maris Memorial Lecture held with guest speaker, Jacquie Katona
  • 2001: Establishment of the Ngarn-gi Bagora Indigenous Centre, named by Senior Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Joy Murphy. Indigenous enrolments total 38.
  • 2001: First Victorian Indigenous PhD (Legal Studies) graduate Dr Wayne Atkinson (Yorta Yorta) celebrates his conferral
  • 2003 – 2010: First Indigenous representative on University Council is appointed – alumnus Gaye Sculthorpe (who served three terms as Member)
  • 2004: Director, Indigenous Education position created. Gary Thomas is appointed.
  • 2008: La Trobe University hosts the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium
  • 2008: Vice-Chancellors of all nine Victorian Universities sign up to the Toorong Marnong Indigenous Higher Education Accord which is launched at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education
  • 2009: La Trobe University Act
    S. 5(f) amended by No. 69/2015 s. 61.
    (f) to use its expertise and resources to involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia in its teaching and learning, research and advancement of knowledge activities and thereby contribute to—
    S. 5(f)(i) amended by No. 69/2015 s. 61.
    (i) realising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations; and
    (ii) the safe guarding of the ancient and rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage;
  • 2010: “Closing the Gap: 35 in 5” Indigenous Employment Strategy launched.
  • 2012: Indigenous Education moves from the PVC (Equity) to DVC (Academic) portfolio.
  • 2013: Executive Director Indigenous Strategy & Education, Professor Mark Rose, is appointed.
  • 2015: Indigenous Education undergoes a restructure. The position of Associate Director Indigenous Education & Student Services is created. “Gamagoen Yarrbat”, Indigenous Education Strategy is launched.
  • 2016: Indigenous enrolments reach 226.
  • 2016: Oldest Indigenous graduate, Gordon Franklin, 72, completes his Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws at Bundoora Campus.

La Trobe University will always have a connection to Indigenous Australia through its campuses being located on lands occupied by traditional custodians including Wurundjeri (Bundoora, Franklin St and 360 Collins), Dja Dja Wurrung (Bendigo), Yorta Yorta (Shepparton), Latji Latji (Mildura) and Dhudhuroa (Wodonga).

Over the years commitment to Indigenous education and employment has been steady and some of our Indigenous staff and alumnus are high profile professionals in sectors including Anthropology and Heritage Management (Dr Gaye Sculthorpe), Indigenous Health (Dr Ian Anderson), Law (Dr Wayne Atkinson), Higher Education (Professor Mark Rose), Nursing (Doseena Fergie) and Education (Dennis Mitchell).