In Summary

Swinburne journalism students have collaborated with The Sunday Age newspaper to investigate the workings of the controversial Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The series of reports, written by mostly first year students in the journalism course's news writing unit, will appear in The Sunday Age over coming weeks. The series began today. 

Journalism course convenor Dr Andrew Dodd said the collaboration was a good example of the hands-on approach adopted at Swinburne. 

"We believe the best way to learn about journalism is by actually doing it, and by doing it in authentic settings,’’ he said. “We also think that the journalism produced by the students should be useful for real audiences." 

Each student was asked to investigate a case from VCAT's 2013 planning and environment decisions. They were asked to analyse the case by talking to all parties and to see if VCAT made reasoned and consistently fair decisions. 

The project was coordinated by journalism lecturer Larry Schwartz, a reporter with many years experience at The Age and other newspapers. Other tutors acted as mentors and sub-editors and - in some cases - assisted with the research and reporting. 

Dr Dodd said the series relied on the experience of Swinburne's skilled journalism staff and tutors, including Associate Professor John Cokley, Ken Haley, Duncan Hughes and Sue Green. "They each have many years of industry experience, which Larry drew from for this reporting exercise." 

Mr Schwartz said he was impressed with the way in which students had committed themselves to the challenge. 

Each of the reports investigates a case that highlights a different contentious area of planning law, such as building height restrictions, parking allocations, overlooking or overshadowing. 

Sunday Age deputy editor Melissa Fyfe said the students had done an excellent job. 

“It's often difficult to get a picture of how this important and often controversial body is operating, but the students have put the decisions in context and talked to the community about its concerns,’’ she said. 

 “Ordinary Victorians who grapple with neighbourhood issues such as parking, medium density housing, street character and overshadowing should find this series informative.’’