Transcript of interview with Deakin VC Professor Iain Martin

Media release

03 August 2021

Transcript of Deakin VC Professor Iain Martin's interview with Virginia Trioli on 774 ABC Melbourne.

TOPICS: ABC MELBOURNE’S UPCOMING 'RADIO IN RESIDENCY' IN GEELONG, DEAKIN’S CONTRIBUTION TO GEELONG, COVID-19 IMPACT ON INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS, COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I’m sure you’re well aware that Geelong and the region around Geelong is one of the fastest growing areas in Victoria. We love it when you call us in from Geelong. When I see your name and address there on the screen, I just love it. Well, because we have such a strong connection to such an important part of Victoria – very, very close to Melbourne – ABC Radio Melbourne is heading to Geelong. We’re going to be broadcasting from a pop-up radio station at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus during October.

ABC Radio Melbourne is going to get a water view, and it only took moving to Geelong. Easy! You’ll be able to drop by and see all of us here. We’ll be able to see you. You’ll be able to check out your favourite ABC Radio Melbourne programs. We’re going to focus on the stories and issues that matter to people in the Geelong region. It will be a month’s full program of live broadcasts, and we’ll release that program in September. But to celebrate that we wanted to speak to Professor Iain Martin, who’s the Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University. Professor, good morning.

IAIN MARTIN: Good morning.

TRIOLI: We’re coming to Geelong.

PROF MARTIN: It’s fantastic. And not only are you coming to Geelong, you’re coming to our iconic Waterfront Campus in some of the old Woolstores.

TRIOLI: Now, look, I don’t know about your Waterfront Campus, but I certainly have been down to the refurbished Geelong waterfront, which is just wonderful. So where are you there and what do you do there?

PROF MARTIN: We’re right on the waterfront. We’re in three of the old Woolstores that were converted a number of years ago. We’ve kept the iconic past but look forward to the future all in the same building. And, as you say, a great waterfront location.

TRIOLI: We don’t even get a view of the Yarra from where we are here, so we’re definitely upgrading. It must be a very difficult time for your university, though. Do you have students on campus? Are you allowed to right now?

PROF MARTIN: So students can come on to campus for their laboratory sessions, practicals, anything that you can’t do well online. So, yes, we have got a range of activities going on. Is it normal? No. Are we looking forward to getting back to normal as quickly as possible? Absolutely.

TRIOLI: Deakin’s a pretty integral part of Geelong now, isn’t it? Do you know the financial benefit the university brings to the City of Geelong?

PROF MARTIN: It’s difficult to dissect exactly what it is. But we’re one of the biggest employers in Geelong. We are, I like to say, probably no more than about one degree of separation from any of the businesses in Geelong. Either they work with us or they employ our graduates. And we’re intimately involved with the economic rejuvenation of Geelong through our Future Economy Precinct and a number of other things we’ve got going on rebuilding what is just a fantastic city.

TRIOLI: So what are the real challenges for Geelong right now, particularly as we have not yet come out of this pandemic and you’re subject probably to as many lockdowns as we get up here?

PROF MARTIN: I think we’ve got all of the challenges that everybody’s facing at the moment as we navigate through from the pandemic to a time when COVID-19 is endemic. What does that look like and how do we navigate that? But I would also say that, like much of regional Victoria, we’ve had two years of really quite incredible growth – I think 6000 people have moved to Geelong in the last 12 months. The city, despite everything, is thriving. There’s a lot of really exciting things happening. So some of the challenges are actually the challenges of quite rapid growth. But that doesn’t get away from what’s happened to our tourism industries around the city. A lot of the small businesses in the CBD are struggling in the same way that small CBD businesses are struggling everywhere without those workers around. But there’s a lot of great stuff happening alongside it.

TRIOLI: How’s the university holding up without international students?

PROF MARTIN: I’m asked this frequently, and I sort of come back with a mixture of optimism and nervousness. I’m optimistic for the university because the great team we’ve got across the university have adapted and changed multiple times over the last year. We’ve now in terms of total student numbers bigger than we’ve ever been because we’ve had very, very strong domestic recruitment over a couple of years. But, look, there’s no doubt that the effective guillotine down on the arrival of international students last March has had an impact.

They contribute hugely to social, cultural and obviously economic wellbeing in Geelong and Melbourne and everywhere across the state. And their loss is going to be keenly felt. If I look at Deakin, we were about 25 per cent international in 2019. Now, I don’t have the crystal ball that tells me exactly when international borders are going to be reopening, but I think that probably mid-year of next year is about the earliest you can see it starting in a meaningful way. So we think we’ll be down to 8 or 9 per cent international students by the time that happens. And that does have an impact on the university. It has an impact on every university.

TRIOLI: Have you got insight into the revival plan, the overseas student revival plan, that’s been on the desk apparently to the relevant minister, the Education Minister Alan Tudge, federally, for more than a week and what it actually proposes? That 10-year international student strategy and an 18-month road map? Have you got any idea about whether he’s interested in it or will actually enforce it?

PROF MARTIN: We’ve obviously had input with both state and federal government in developing that plan. As a university we absolutely understand just how challenging this is to balance out our desire to get international students back with the huge pressure on both maintaining quarantine systems, bringing Australians overseas back. But we have worked very carefully. The plan involves a slow transition to return, involving additional quarantine places. I think everybody we talk to in principle – both state and federal government – recognises just how important this is to our state. In 2019 it was one of the most important economic activities in the state.

And we really look forward to that pathway being articulated. But ultimately we are in the same position as most other businesses. The only real pathway out to anything remotely normal again is high levels of community vaccination. I think we all have to be focusing on that as probably the single most important activity that we can all do to get our nation back from pandemic COVID-19 to endemic COVID-19, where we can manage it and manage it safely.

TRIOLI: I’m sure I’ll see you down at the Geelong waterfront, Professor Martin, but just very quickly before I let you go: do you like the idea of a $300 incentive for those who are fully vaccinated by 1 December?

PROF MARTIN: I think we need to think very carefully about how we incentivise people to get vaccinated. There is some evidence that a small financial nudge does make a difference. If you ask me personally, I would much rather put incentives on opening up activities to individuals who are vaccinated rather than a financial incentive. But I think any way we can get there I’d really, really encourage people to go out and get vaccinated. It is the single most important thing we can all do for your own benefit but, most importantly, for the benefit of those around you.

TRIOLI: Good to talk to you, Professor. See you on the waterfront.

PROF MARTIN: Absolutely. Looking forward to it.

TRIOLI: Professor Iain Martin who’s the Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University. We’re heading to Geelong. We’ll be broadcasting from our very own pop-up radio studio there at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus. We’re doing that during October.

ENDS

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