University of Ballarat Amendment (Federation University Australia) Bill 2013
I do not know quite what has happened with those on the other side of the house, but clearly they are in disorder, so it is appropriate for me to have the call a little earlier than I might have otherwise expected. However, I am very pleased to speak on this very significant bill as the member for Ballarat East, which is home to the Mount Helen campus of the University of Ballarat. Of course this house was in the position of being convened at the Mount Helen campus only last year, so members will be aware of the facilities that are on offer at the University of Ballarat.
For the people of Ballarat it was a source of great excitement for us when the University of Ballarat came into existence in 1994 to think that the people of Ballarat could have a university of their own. This came with a great deal of work from many people who saw this as a vision and pushed it forward, and it was something that of course Ballarat has not looked back from as a result of that.
However, the other thing I want to say is that since 1994, when the University of Ballarat came into existence, it has not just been a university for Ballarat, it has been a university that has extended. In 1998 the university extended and merged with the former School of Mines and Industries Ballarat — known as SMB — and its Ararat campus, and also with Wimmera Institute of TAFE and its Horsham and Stawell campuses.
Since that time the University of Ballarat has had a significant presence across western Victoria. Although technically the university came into existence in 1994, it has a significant history going back to 1870 and to the School of Mines Ballarat. The Mount Helen campus came into existence in 1975 when the school of mines determined a need for a tertiary division, and for many years after that — until 1994 — it was the Ballarat College of Advanced Education (BCAE). Many students came through the BCAE over those years, including former Premier Steve Bracks.
Prior to 1994 the university had a great history in Ballarat. Since that time it has expanded and become a very progressive university for the region. It has recognised the need to provide quality courses for students who are able to access its courses in Ballarat and at the other campuses in western Victoria, which is very important because we want regional students to have good opportunities to access higher education. It continues to be a concern that they are not as involved in higher education as are students from metropolitan Melbourne. Universities like Ballarat have a very important role in providing quality education that is comfortable for students from regional Victoria, but I note also that the University of Ballarat is able to attract students from across the world and especially from the Asia and Middle East regions. Over the years I have been pleased to attend graduation ceremonies at the university, which on occasion have been very exciting and multicultural.
I always feel for the people introducing the graduates because they have to work through a complex range of names of graduates who have come from Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, which are so different to ours. The graduation ceremonies are fantastic events that provide a great sense of the breadth of the University of Ballarat and its coverage.
Not only has the university provided great opportunities for students, but it has seen an opportunity to be a partner with the communities of Ballarat and western Victoria. Under its first vice-chancellor, David James, the university undertook programs where it took connectivity out to many regional or smaller rural towns in western Victoria. It established community internet centres in towns from Daylesford through to Minyip and Rupanyup and provided those communities with the opportunity of having these centres in the towns where they could learn about internet opportunities. I remember they had knowledge navigators operating in the centres, which was clearly something the university was doing to show it could benefit communities and not just provide educational opportunities for students.
More recently under Professor David Battersby, who I am glad to see is in the gallery today, that kind of development has continued extensively. The university recognises it has a significant role to play, and I am glad to see it has developed in so many ways to broaden its footprint in western Victoria region.
I am very pleased that UB Tec has come into existence, which was a vision of former Minister for Education Lynne Kosky. I am even more excited to see that its new building is under construction at the moment and UB Tec will further develop in providing courses for secondary school students and providing great opportunities and quality facilities for students who want to undertake technical courses.
The university continues to do a great many things in a very progressive way, and the recent move to take on the Gippsland campus of Monash University is another of those opportunities. I commend the university for ensuring that it has a broader role in providing great service delivery to regions across the state, and hence we come to the bill before us today. The university has had to consider that if it is going to move into Gippsland and has a view that it has more to offer outside Ballarat, then it has had to question its name.
It has been a source of much anxiety to many people across Ballarat; people like Dr Bill Pryor and others who were part of the original group that helped to see the University of Ballarat come into existence. They are very disappointed that the label of Ballarat may be lost from the university. But I understand that if you are to broaden your service delivery across Victoria and perhaps further across Australia — who knows how might this develop in years to come — then the name ‘Ballarat ‘clearly is limiting, and for students who are in Gippsland an alternative name to the University of Ballarat seems to be appropriate.
Many names have been considered. I am sorry that the University of Eureka was not the agreed name, because I think it would have had a great link back to Ballarat as well as being an exclamation of discovery. It would have been my choice, but I did not get my choice. Federation University Australia has been the decision from a long list of over 30 names under consideration, and it is not up to me to stymie the decision that has been made over a period of time.
I am happy to acknowledge that the new university will be Federation University Australia and should do well.
I am very disappointed that TAFE courses, which have been such an important part of the dual sector University of Ballarat, have had funding cut by $20 million since 2012, which has seen 57 courses dropped this year. Another 15 courses will be dropped next year. Nearly 1300 students have been lost from TAFE. I am concerned about the future of those students. It saddens me that the members on the other side of the house refuse to understand this concern.