Sara Bowman

La Trobe University gave me lifelong friendships, blue sky thinking, freedom, a passion for knowledge, the confidence to pursue my dreams, and an abiding interest in people’s stories. After leaving La Trobe, I undertook postgraduate studies at the Courtauld Institute, London and trained as a tapestry weaver, teaching and exhibiting my textile art internationally. My book and BBC documentary film celebrated the lives and work of the craft of couture. My visual arts training was enhanced by daily exposure to the outstanding Australian painting and print collection at La Trobe.

I chose to come to La Trobe because it was new and provided a unique opportunity to contribute to the foundation of the dynamic international university that La Trobe is today. La Trobe’s motto ‘Qui Cherche Trouve’ encompassed this huge vision – it invited us to become pioneers.

Art history or the visual arts were not part of the academic curriculum, however the first intake came with experience of film, theatre, and music which they developed at La Trobe in new students’ societies and with the support of academics and support staff. La Trobe became an informal hub for film. The Film Society set up by Philippe Mora, Pete Bilbey, Rod Bishop, and others introduced us to French New Wave. The Hungarian cook was always in attendance in his chef’s whites. Cinematheque discotheques were held in Glenn College, where we danced on the tables. Cinema Papers the important International Film Newspaper was launched at La Trobe in 1967 and I was involved in some film making too, with Philippe Mora.

A cleaning cupboard in Glenn College became a darkroom for Allan Street who unofficially photographically documented the early years of La Trobe transforming a cleaning storage cupboard in Glenn College into his darkroom.

As a student from a traditional girls’ school in Melbourne and home in the eastern suburbs, La Trobe gave me a freedom and the opportunity to connect myself and the land. The campus was near bush with its huge skyscapes, native gums, wattle, wild grasses, birdsong, flocks of parquets and ibises, to explore.

We had great opportunities to respond to the built environment. The moat became an annual tradition with rafts and wooden structures in racing in the moat. Rosemary Edwards and I also set up the Swings and Slides club, with SRC backing to promote play with new play equipment for staff and students’ families.