A proud tradition underpinning “Future Ready”

The aim of ‘Future Ready’ is to grow a strong University, sufficiently resourced, so it can continue La Trobe’s proud tradition well into the 21st century.

Since the late ‘sixties our scientists and researchers have studied most things: from life in the deepest oceans to the trajectory of humans from Africa across the planet. Today they are building technology to monitor our increasingly fragile ecosystem from outer space.

Our early students shaped their talents and social consciences during volatile times. For many, learning went along with radical protest in the struggle against the Vietnam War, apartheid in South Africa and other injustices.

From the outset, this new university on the northern fringe of Melbourne led by foundation Vice-Chancellor David Myers, attracted top scholars and thinkers who set benchmarks for intellectual rigour and vibrancy in the arts, humanities and sciences.

We were a university that pioneered education reform.  Our special entry and early school leavers schemes helped people who had previously been denied a university education – especially women and immigrant families.

Our educationists were a force in policy advice and reform for Victorian schools.  Their radical approach – teaching and research conducted through centres and task forces – focused on specific social and educational needs. This technique was soon emulated more widely throughout Australia.

We matured and rose to rank among the world’s top 100 universities (98th) in the 2005 prestigious Times Higher Education Supplement survey.

La Trobe was lauded as a world leader in the arts and humanities, rating at number 23, above such world famous institutions as Heidelberg, Johns Hopkins, Bologna and Boston universities. In social sciences and biomedicine we achieved global rankings of 68 and 86 respectively.

Postgraduate students and staff sought us out for our great strengths and the calibre of our scholars in the humanities, social sciences, biosciences and other areas.

Some of our first graduates – including Garry Weaven, Bill Kelty, Maureen Wheeler, Mary Delahunty,  Tim Flannery, David Morgan, Don Watson and Corinne Grant – achieved early success. Along with so many others who followed into top echelons of politics, government, industry, media, business, arts, science and sport, they helped lead significant social and economic change.

Top scholars and public figures from around the world visited us and spoke to overflowing audiences, boosting our understanding of the times. They included South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu and African National Congress’ Oliver Tambo, India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Booker Prize winning-author and social activist Arundhati Roy and Australia’s own, usually reclusive Nobel-Prize literary luminary, Patrick White.

University life goes beyond the classroom and research lab. It offers real-world experience through clubs, societies, volunteerism and student politics.  Countless students – from Jesse Marshall, last president of the early Student Guild, to Adrian McMillan, first to preside over the La Trobe Student Union – polished their leadership skills in this way.

The Student Union was managed over the decades by Michael Torney and Kevin Coates, and in 2006 Kerry Ferguson, head of Equity and Student Services, helped ‘save the furniture’ for student organisations following the destructive effects of Voluntary Student Unionism.