La Trobe was founded at a time when serious scholarship began to look beyond the written word. Patricia Edgar set up the Centre for the Study of Media and Communication.
Thus began Australia’s first university courses on film and television production and cinema studies – the latter led by actor-director John Flaus.
Flaus was an important contributor to the early editions of the magazine-style Cinema Papers, an influential film magazine published from 1974 to 2001. Its origin was based on a single-issue magazine produced by La Trobe students – Peter Beilby, Rod Bishop and Demos Krouskos, in 1967. One of those students, Rod Bishop, went on to become Director of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTR).
Dr Edgar also set up and led the Australian Children’s Film Foundation. For a while the late Jerzy Toeplitz, Foundation Director of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and a key figure in modern Polish cinema, also worked at La Trobe.
Research by Pat Edgar’s husband, sociologist Don Edgar, had a significant impact on government family and welfare policy. He formed the Australian Institute of Family Studies, in which La Trobe colleague David deVaus, a specialist in family demography and change also had a key role.
The departments of Music and Art History had a substantial impact on Australia’s artistic and intellectual life.
Foundation Professor of Music Keith Humble, a champion of new music, set up Australia’s first contemporary and electronic music department. Its legacy is still reflected in people like Astra Music director John McCaughey, sound artist Ros Bandt, composers Lawrence Whiffin, Julian Yu and music historian John Whiteoak.
La Trobe Art History which to this day has one of our most active alumni chapters, was founded by Peter Tomory. It included among early staff Patrick McCaughey, later to run the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), award-winning author on modern art Richard Haese and classicist Ian McPhee. It produced historians and curators who went on to successful careers: Mark McDonald, at the British Museum, and more recently Tony Ellwood as Director of the NGV, to mention just two.