September 5, 2013  |  Second Reading

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.