Message from Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor

Message from the Vice-Chancellor

Last Friday, at lunch time, about 500 staff and students gathered in the Agora to pay their respects to Aiia Maasarwe, the student who was so senselessly murdered close to the University campus last Wednesday. We united to share our grief, and to express our horror and anger at what happened. It was a deeply moving occasion, with flowers laid and candles lit in her memory.

After the vigil, I spent time with Saeed, Aiia’s father. He was understandably grief stricken, yet spoke with great dignity and love about his daughter, whom he described as a talented, warm, open-hearted young woman, who had been thriving during her time in Melbourne.

These heart-rending events have inevitably led me and others to reflect on what more we can do to ensure the safety of our community on and around our campus, and how we can most effectively work with others in the community to improve safety on public transport.

Over the last two years, and particularly since the launch of the Respect.Now.Always report, La Trobe has made significant changes to improve safety and security on campus. We have improved lighting, installed additional security cameras, and enhanced support services for staff and students, including through the UNI-Safe Escort Service, which is available to escort students and staff after dark between buildings, campus car parks and local transport points. We will continue to review these initiatives over the coming weeks and months.

I urge everyone to ensure that you are familiar with the security services and support on offer, which can be seen here.

I am confident that these initiatives have made our campus a much safer place.

Yet, as these events have demonstrated so cruelly, there is always more we can do, especially in the area adjacent to the boundaries of our campus. Because this is an area we can’t control, we have to work in partnership with others to make things happen – especially Public Transport Victoria (PTV), transport operators, Victoria Police, Darebin Council, and the owners and operators of the Polaris Shopping Centre.

We have already made significant progress with State Government and PTV in improving public transport connections to the campus. For example, we secured the introduction of bus route 301 – the Reservoir Express Shuttle – which runs regularly between Reservoir Train Station and campus during semester.

Later this week, I will meet with Darebin Council and PTV, and with the owners and operators of Polaris, to see what more can be done to improve the safety and security of the route 86 tram, and especially the La Trobe and Plenty Road tram stops close to our campus and surrounding areas.

I want to reassure the entire community that we are committed to making our campus as safe as possible for everyone who comes here; and that I am determined to ensure that something positive results from this tragic event.

We will also ensure that we always remember Aiia, and will work with her family to identify the best way of honouring her memory.

Professor John Dewar

Vice-Chancellor and President

La Trobe University