Since 2021, UPco has worked on a series of amendments to the extension of La Trobe University, all of which have been approved in record time. We chatted to UPco Associate Genevieve Kour about the most recent approval, and why it’s so significant for both the University and broader community.

Gen, can you tell us a bit about the La Trobe project? What has it involved and what part has UPco played?

“For some time now, La Trobe University has been planning an expansion of its Shepparton campus, enabling them more student enrolments each year. Many La Trobe Shepparton graduates go on to work in the local region in much-needed areas such as nursing and education, so this extension – designed by the award-winning team at Spowers – made sense not only for the university, but for the wider region too.

“UPco had obtained planning approval for the existing La Trobe Shepparton building, and we became involved with the project again in 2021, when amendments were needed – initially for the extension itself, and subsequently for things like the inclusion of more parking and a revised landscape scheme.”

The new landscaping scheme integrates an Indigenous Welcome garden into the redevelopment. How did this come about?

“The Welcome Garden was proposed by the university, who saw an opportunity to honour the site’s heritage and keep this top of mind for all visitors to the campus. The plans were developed by Greenaway Architects in collaboration with Paul Herzich of Mantirri Design, an Aboriginal Landscape Architect and Visual and Public Artist. Throughout the design process, there was also extensive consultation with indigenous stakeholders, led by Greenshoot Consulting.

“The objective of the revised landscape scheme is to reveal the layers of the Yorta Yorta Country on which it sits and pay homage to the traditional owners of the land. Yorta Yorta country has three main environments: water (in the form of rivers and wetlands), grassy woodland plains, and rocky hills which are traditional observation points and places of ceremony and ritual. The La Trobe University Welcome Garden expresses this through a number of elements. 

“Local fauna is reflected in the outdoor furniture and signage: for example, the broad-shelled turtle is represented through patterns etched onto concrete plinths. Local flora is represented by garden beds with plants, shrubs, grasses and groundcovers that are endemic to Yorta Yorta country. Meanwhile, water is symbolised by the graphical expression of the Yarning Circle, and land is represented by the paving design, which features a variegated pattern of local stones.”

What does the garden signify?

“As well as telling stories of the Yorta Yorta country that are meaningful to us culturally, I think the garden is significant because it places the site’s specific indigenous heritage front and centre. The university is a place of significant scale, and one that’s dedicated to education – so it feels appropriate to dedicate this space to nurturing a greater understanding and awareness of Country.

“Given the way the garden interfaces the street, it will extend into the public realm, giving the general public a chance to experience these stories. Council is also planning a walking track connecting sites of cultural and artistic significance in the area, which the Welcome Garden will be part of this network. I think it’s great to see acknowledgement of Country given centre stage in a unique and engaging format.”

Why do you think the approval process was so speedy?

“We worked closely with Greater Shepparton Council throughout the planning process, and they could not have been more supportive. There’s recognition of the important role that La Trobe University plays in the Shepparton region, and this became clear when our applications were approved in such short order. Local Councils also tend to encourage native vegetation, so they could appreciate the value of the Welcome Garden ecologically as well as culturally. It was great to see such a positive contribution to Shepparton receive such a strong backing, and we were proud to be involved.”

The La Trobe University Shepparton Campus Building Extension project is supported by a $5.5 million commitment from the Australian Government.