What a time in our lifetimes and in our history!

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everyday life across the world. The future for many feels so unpredictable and with multiple ongoing concerns and struggles for us and for our loved ones – health, finances, jobs, housing, security, the environment, conflicts and violence,  to name a few. As indicated by the World Health Organization, we are also in an ‘infodemic’ where it is difficult to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

Our Association and Graduate House too face great challenges.

We thus seek your support.

The challenges of 2020 are outlined in the April edition of our Melbourne Graduate (please read this on our website on the Publications page under the Join Us tab). In short, we suffered severe reductions in our usual revenue sources from student and academic accommodation, and from meeting and function services. Much needed and much appreciated government funding at the federal, state and local levels – as well as the generosity of you and other Members and supporters – sustained us during this period.

Reductions in our usual revenue generating services continue in 2021. International students are not yet returning to Australia. Domestic graduate-level students are continuing mainly with online learning. There are fewer visitors to the university by academics and researchers with the ongoing concern about intra-Australia border closures, as well as the delivery of many courses online. ‘Hybrid’ meetings and functions – with some participants online – mean that a lower number of people come into Graduate House for seminars, professional development, meetings and other events. JobKeeper has ceased.

In times like this, we are reminded constantly of how interconnected globally we all are as an Association. We are reminded also of the importance of our Association and of our core purpose.

What we do well in our membership and what is so essential is that we support each other.

We help graduates of all universities, disciplines, ethnicities, life stages and perspectives.

We keep student and academic residents safe while at Graduate House – a long way away from home and a long way away from friends and family.

We help educate and produce the professionals that are at the coal face of this pandemic – our doctors, nurses, public health officials, and researchers. Our Members and supporters across Australia and around the world have been treating patients, developing therapeutics and vaccines, communicating through the media, working in public health and in government, running businesses (small and large) that are keeping people employed and engaged, volunteering and giving pro bono services to those in need, and contributing to world peace, the global economy and many other local-through-to-global initiatives. We are so very proud of this engagement by our intelligent and influential membership, and, of course, very grateful for this collective contribution.

Another thing that our membership association does well and that is also so essential is that we facilitate connections. You, other Members and our supporters keep in touch with those amongst us who feel alone and isolated. Drawing from the diversity of our life experiences, professional careers and multiple disciplines, we provide opportunities – introductions to networks, jobs, advice, mentorship, coaching, and professional development initiatives. When someone is looking for a particular expertise, we link them to the best and the brightest, the ones who can be trusted and those who will do the best job. We help with internships, placements and other chances for earlier career graduates to learn in the real world. We assist those who seek to return to studying or research to find the right course, the right university, the right research topic and the best supervisors. We provide access to the experts who know their field and who can provide information that is objective, well-researched, valid and reliable. This connectivity has contributed greatly to the formation of stronger research collaborations and the timely high-quality translation into products (e.g., vaccines; therapeutics) and services (e.g., public health, quarantine).

Thank you for being an integral part of – and engaged actively with – this incredibly diverse and influential community. We are so very honoured to be a part of this network and are doing everything we can to foster and strengthen these connections.

If you are able, please donate.

We do understand that there are calls on your generosity from many other worthwhile and important institutions, and, of course,  we do not want to impact negatively on another charity through this call for your support.

However, we do need your support to weather this ‘perfect storm’ for, at least, another twelve months.

Be reassured that Council (board), its subcommittees and our staff are working diligently and doing all that they can to sustain this organisation.

Council continues to provide strong and stable governance. It meets regularly, as do all our subcommittees. Financial forecasts for different scenarios continue and austerity measures have been put in place, along with regular reporting and monitoring requirements. All Members of Council and the subcommittees are advocating strongly for protection of and support for our struggling sectors, particularly student accommodation, university level education and hospitality. This dedication and commitment, along with comprehensive and sound guidance, is giving vital and much-needed support to the executive and staff, the latter of whom are continuing to demonstrate sheer hard work, commitment, loyalty and positivity under extremely difficult circumstances.

Operationally, we continue to provide our usual services – membership support, graduate and academic residential accommodation, and academic and professional development meeting and function services.

We ask that you promote these usual activities, particularly to the domestic market.

Sometimes graduate-level domestic students do not consider residing in a college because they think that this means living with undergraduates, that they cannot book shorter term stays (e.g., overnight or for on-campus placements) or that it will be too expensive (as they are often self-supporting). Please thus clarify to them that: (a) they will be in a mature living environment with postgraduate students and visiting academics/clinicians; (b) they can choose any length of stay so that it matches the time that they need to spend on campus – e.g., one week, one month, five years; and (c) that they do not have to lock into a longer-term lease (as oft required in the private rental sector). We also do not have an ‘add-on’ assessment process for entry to this college. This is because we very much understand that a graduate level student has already gone through enough administrative hoops!

Please provide reassurance that it is much less expensive to stay at Graduate House than in a motel – and we encourage also our Members visiting Melbourne to stay here – and that the overall cost of our college accommodation at Graduate House is comparable to the overall costs of renting – this is because the Graduate House rent includes meals (seven breakfasts, five dinners per week), utility and water bills, internet access and a range of support services.

There are of course, also, the obvious benefits of living with and thus meeting on a day-to-day basis the best and the brightest from around the world at Graduate House, and thus establishing lifelong and enduring networks that give professional and personal benefits.

A quick mention on your social media would mean the world to us.

With the reopening of Melbourne and Victoria over the last few months, we are so very grateful to see the return of our academic and professional development sector for meetings and functions. As you will know, we already had a ‘flexible configuration’ approach for this service. The lay-out in our meeting rooms is tailored for every event, be it a seminar, a committee meeting, a panel presentation, a small performing ensemble, a research group, a lunch or dinner with a presentation, a celebration, a cocktail party or a networking function.

Hybrid’ events –some at Graduate House and others online or on the telephone.

We have become expert and adept at ‘hybrid’ events whereby some delegates and speakers are in at Graduate House while others are participating online or over a conference telephone call. Our audio and video capability has been enhanced, and we have large screens, pan cameras and good microphones. This means that you can listen to an expert guest speaker while dining at Graduate House or in your living room. You can see and hear your friends and colleagues in a Graduate House space or on a screen. If you cannot make it into Graduate House for these events, you too can join us online or over the telephone (and we provide free technical advice to our Members over the phone to assist with this).

At the beginning of 2020, we were already a nimble and lean organisation. However, some redundancies had to be made last year. This was indeed a very, very sad time for us all. These valued staff members had not done anything wrong – quite the contrary – they were all much-loved, contributing, dedicated and hard-working. We simply could not generate sufficient revenue to pay salaries and wages outside of JobKeeper. We have been able to assist some of these past staff members gain alternative employment or to return home safely; and are forever grateful for their time with us during the initial months of this pandemic.

Please be reassured that we are doing all that we can to retain all remaining staff. However – and notwithstanding a great deal of lobbying – JobKeeper ended at the end of March. We are thus very much dependent on generating revenue, continuing austerity measures (with all staff working on markedly reduced hours/salaries) and receiving donations, bequests, advocacy and other forms of support from our Members and supporters.

Please inform others about our new initiatives.

To generate new lines of revenue we have introduced a range of new initiatives. These build on our strengths and have a focus on shorter-term space usage in Graduate House.

One new initiative is called ‘medi-stays’.

Graduate House is within walking distance or a tram-ride away from many major Melbourne and internationally renowned hospitals – The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital, Royal Women’s Hospital, Epworth Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital and the Alfred Hospital. For many years now – and on an informal basis – we have been giving temporary accommodation at Graduate House to those visiting loved ones in hospital; to those coming for outpatient treatments (e.g., cancer therapy, dialysis, mental health therapy, dental health) from outer metropolitan Melbourne, regional Victoria or interstate; to those needing non-care respite (a little TLC); and to those seeking a recuperation period before returning home after a hospital stay. We are clean, safe, warm, hygienic, economical and welcoming. We also provide breakfasts and dinners, as well as secure car parking and nooks for reading and quiet times out of the accommodation room.

A second initiative is ‘office rentals’ on an as-needed basis.

These office spaces are in the iconic Gladstone Terrace – a joined up row of seven double-storeyed terrace buildings. They suit a sole proprietor who wants a bolt hole outside their home and a more formal setting for face-to-face client meetings for one or more days a week. Small-to-medium sized enterprises, not-for-profits and research centres may no longer require a long leasehold and are thus seeking a place where they can have face to face meetings with their staff and others, as well as out-of-home office spaces for just a few days a week. Consultants may also use these offices a few days each week to provide boutique face-to-face services (e.g., financial and investment advice, psychological counseling, executive coaching) and university groups can use these office spaces for the safe return of their staff and students. Our friendly reception staff greet and sign in clients and ensure that they are comfortable while waiting for appointments. Post and parcel receipt and delivery, as well as good Wi Fi and a safe car park for clients are also provided. Staff and clients can also have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room, beverages from the café bar, and meetings/functions in one of our many flexibly configured spaces. For regional or interstate businesses that need to meet on occasion with clients in Melbourne, Graduate House provides not only the office and a manned welcoming reception, but also temporary overnight accommodation. In the heart of a vibrant university precinct (The University of Melbourne and RMIT), Graduate House is indeed an impressive office address.

A third initiative is called ‘Residential Fellowships’.

These give opportunities for businesses and individuals to sponsor a graduate student, academic or researcher to stay at Graduate House for a set period (3, 6, 12 or 18 months). The sponsor can tailor the name, target and branding of this award. Examples include the Business Name Graduate House Residential Fellowship for regional Victorians; the Law (or any other disciplineGraduate House Residential Fellowship; the Graduate House Residential Fellowship for a Visiting Expert; the Family Name Graduate House Residential Fellowship.

Financial support for residency at the graduate level is rare. Most student scholarships fund university course fees and, if residency is included, it is usually for undergraduates and bound to an undergraduate college. Course fees PLUS the costs of accommodation and other living expenses are high. This means that many graduate-level students simply cannot afford to undertake necessary postgraduate courses. As adults, they tend to be self-funding their studies and are no longer receiving financial support from their families. Yet, post-graduate level qualifications and professional development are highly valued by employers – and indeed, often required in the eligibility criteria to gain jobs and for career advancement. Many disciplines still require on-campus experiences – for example, to access research laboratories, to undertake hospital and clinical placements and to work in workshops that have state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Not everything can (or should) be done online. A short-term Residential Fellowship means less stress, a safe and convenient place to live and focus on the things that matter – education and research. It also gives an equity and diversity opportunity, balancing out the numbers in each profession of people from different socioeconomic, geographic and life experience backgrounds.

There are multiple rewards for the sponsor of a Graduate House Residential Fellowship. For companies, sponsorship brings brand recognition and visibility, a reinforced positive reputation, product and service awareness and a global presence in a sophisticated market. For individuals and families, sponsorship brings honour, respect and influence, a positive ongoing legacy and a good contribution to society. Graduate level students are mature, very dedicated and well-advanced in their discipline. They value your support and your trust in their capacity and will not let you down. Many of our residents are undertaking vital research that will lead to much needed progress across all fields – medicine, engineering, the law, commerce, the arts, science, etc. Your name will thus be behind much innovation, inspiration and influence.

What we and you do and give is very much appreciated.

Our hearts and souls have been warmed by the many positive testimonials from Members over the last twelve months. This feedback has also very much reinforced the importance of our membership association and of our Carlton gem, Graduate House.

  I was so excited to arrive and settle in at Graduate House and to meet other graduate-level students. Then every changed SUDDENLY!! Thank you for being so calm and caring when I had to leave the country. I am now home and safe with my family. It is hard to study online but I can keep going with most of my studies. As soon as Australia opens its borders again and it is safe, I will be back studying on-campus and living at Graduate House.  
Resident who had to leave Graduate House quickly in March 2020
  You kept us safe for months. It was so tough to have to stay in our rooms during lockdown but you delivered the food, gave us fresh linen, removed the waste safely, and gave us ways of doing our own housekeeping. 


Above all, you kept us sane – mentally safe – there was always someone to talk to and confide in. For me it was horrible to be so far away when my family got sick overseas. You understood and cared. It was a very sad time. Thank you for your condolences and for your prayers.

Resident who stayed during lockdown and lost a loved one to COVID-19.
  I have had a wonderful stay at Graduate House these past two years, and I am extremely grateful to all the staff members for making the place like a second home for me. It has been a boon to be a part of the college and be involved in the Graduate House community. I came to appreciate this even more after the lockdown and the resulting isolation. 

It has been a blessing to have meals being taken care of, and I commend the effort with which the chefs have prepared dishes. My favourite among them are Basma’s palak paneer, Nelson’s veg stir-fry noodles and Keith’s congee!

 I cherish the memories of my time here. The memories of playing table tennis, having insightful conversations over meals and partaking in the revelry during festivals like Christmas in July and Iftar have been extremely special!

I am grateful to have found a community and a sense of belonging at Graduate House. For someone who has been living far away from home, these have been invaluable in making Melbourne a home away from home!

Resident who stayed at Graduate House for two years, leaving at the end of 2020.
  You were the only organisation that rang me to see how I was! A lot of the other calls wanted a donation. You called to say hello, give me someone to talk to about how I was feeling and lift my spirits. Thank you for keeping the residents safe and please send them my regards.  
Member living at home alone during lockdown
  It has always been great to work with Rosie and the team — and last year was no exception. Though we had bookings for the whole year, we were very much comforted by the calm and professional approach taken for each on-off lock down period, and in managing the ever-changing restrictions. 

Graduate House was on top of it at every stage.

We had the right technology for online-only meetings, and now, for meetings with some of our colleagues at Graduate House and others online in meeting hubs elsewhere. We can see and hear everyone, show presentations and record everything for our webinars. It is so good to back here – learning, meeting, dining and networking!!

Organisation that held online events in 2020 and is holding hybrid events in 2021.

The Association and our Graduate House rely on the generosity of you and other donors to continue giving support to all segments of our membership.

Your generosity will help us to continue to deliver much-needed and much-appreciated services, to retain staff and to ride this difficult wave until we have more certainty and the return of good revenue. Yes, we are doing everything possible to sustain daily operations and provide services to our community; and are acutely aware of the need to adapt quickly to this changing reality. Now, more than ever, our community needs us …

… and we need you.

See below to make a donation online. Please feel free also to telephone us on +61 3 9347 3428 to donate over the phone.

We know that times are tough. However there are many things to be grateful for and reasons to smile. Please know that your donation today will help keep others positive, smiling and optimistic.

Your feedback and suggestions are also very welcomed. Please write to us, email us on admingh@graduatehouse.com.au, telephone or send us feedback through the chat function on our website or through our social media platforms.

We do so hope that you and yours are safe and well.

Yours sincerely

Dr Kerry Bennett

PhD(Cantab), GAICD, BAppSc, DipTP, CertEd, CertBlockchainStrat, MAICD, MAAA, MFIA, MGWV, MGWA, MGWI, MHAAG