Tree change brings arts academic to beautiful Bendigo

Dr Jacqueline Millner, photographed in front of artwork by creative arts student David Hawley.

La Trobe University’s Bendigo Campus is bucking the trend for creative arts courses, welcoming a new Associate Professor to head its recently-renewed program.

Academic and author Dr Jacqueline Millner is fresh from the University of Sydney where she was Associate Professor of Art History and Theory at Sydney College of the Arts in the visual arts faculty.

She says although the Bendigo move may be seen as a tree change, it was also a step to further her career, given La Trobe’s recent investment in its creative arts course.

“I’ve lived in Sydney for most of my professional life, so this is a huge change,” she says. “I was very struck by the fact that around the country most universities are winding down or heavily restructuring their visual arts whereas this university is investing in a new program. Coming here was the chance to grow something into a larger, more dynamic and really distinctive program.”

Dr Millner says she was already familiar with Bendigo’s strong and growing cultural scene, through the Bendigo Art Gallery’s high-profile exhibitions and the La Trobe Art Institute in View Street.

“I’m interested in this region, where there appears to be a real focus on developing cultural opportunities and identities,” she says. “A lot of people in Sydney are fed up by the big city experience. As we know sky rocketing property prices always have a knock-on effect for creative professionals, who are being consistently squeezed out of the centre. A lot of artists from big metropolitan centres are looking to regional areas to find a greater sense of community and opportunities for new creative initiatives.”

From her first week in the role Dr Millner says she was impressed by the facilities for students on the Bendigo campus and was looking forward to opening those up to the community.

“Some of the facilities such as kilns and the print studio here have been under-utilised for a while and it will be great to get them back in full throttle,” she says. “Certainly part of my role will be re-activating those facilities and making sure people know about them, which is particularly important for public engagement.”

Plans for 2018 include attracting high-profile artists to use those facilities to run community masterclasses.

Dr Millner says next year will also be an exciting time for creative arts students in Bendigo, with the university’s new Bachelor of Creative Arts course being one-year into practice.

“It’s a radical re-think of the course, which is now much more aligned with contemporary art education internationally,” she says. “In 2018 things will be particularly good. We have big plans to continue growing the program here and in Mildura, increase post-graduate opportunities and strengthen our ties with the La Trobe Art Institute. We are also looking at ways we can forge greater links with the city and activate it for our students.”

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