CUC Far West in NSW Parliament

Mr JOHN BARILARO: “Research suggests that students in metropolitan areas are more likely to complete a university degree than those from regional and remote areas. Likewise, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education found distance study completion rates of only 46 per cent in the regions compared to 76 per cent for on-campus study. The reality for us in the bush is that we have to do it through distance education. Our young people in the regions deserve the same opportunities, the same investment and the same direction as those in the cities. That is why the New South Wales Government is proud of its Country Universities Centre [CUC] model, which was designed and delivered in the regional town of Cooma originally, sponsored by the local council and then by Snowy Hydro. It offers access to tertiary education to 60-plus students who, in previous years, would have had to leave Cooma to go to either Canberra or Sydney, which is a loss to the community.

Today, because of the investment of the New South Wales Government into the Country Universities Centre, the number of students across affiliated centres is approximately 191, which is well above the Government’s target of 120 students by 31 October 2018. In the Far West, 76 students are currently enrolled. A number of weeks ago I had the privilege of being in Broken Hill for the official opening of its Country Universities Centre. Of those 76 students, 17.1 per cent identify as Indigenous, compared to the State participation for Indigenous people, which sits at just 0.9 per cent. The Government is changing the way it delivers education to the most vulnerable, disadvantaged communities in regional and remote New South Wales because of the investment and the focus through the new Country Universities Centre model.

A massive 62 per cent of students in the Far West are also first in family, which means this is not just changing the individual’s future but making the ambassador for those families—not only changing their own lives but also being a positive example for their family. I have touched on the Snowy Monaro region. In Goulburn at a recent community cabinet, along with the Premier and the local member, we had the privilege of opening the Goulburn Country Universities Centre, which already has 52 students—again, a remarkable outcome. Michelle Freebody, who studies at Goulburn, said:

With the assistance of CUC I jumped at the chance to upskill and turned my career goal of being a school counsellor into a reality. I wouldn’t have contemplated study except that this centre is in Goulburn now. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to move to the next level of my career but not move from my home.

That is the key to the success of the Country Universities Centre. It is about offering the opportunity while someone remains in their community. The local member, the member for Goulburn, was an advocate who made sure she championed Goulburn to be one of the first new sites delivered. Last week the member for Barwon and the member for the Northern Tablelands were able to announce the next two centres, one in Narrabri and in Moree. The Government will give the young people of those two communities the opportunity to stay home, live in their town and be part of their community, and ensure they have access to higher education. We on this side of the House want to invest in those children, the next generation of community leaders, business leaders and, of course, political leaders, and we want them to do that while living in the community they call home. This is our focus: young people and the next generation. When we leave this place we all want to look back at our legacy. Our legacy must be one of opportunity, not just of bricks and mortar, and not just the investment in road, rail, schools and hospitals.

The SPEAKER: Order! There is too much noise in the Chamber.

Mr JOHN BARILARO: It is about the opportunity that we leave the next generation. [Extension of time]

Our Country Universities Centre model means more and more students right across regional New South Wales no longer have to decide if they will leave their family farm, their family business or their local community. They now have access to an approach that we on this side of the House are very proud of. It changes the way we deliver training and higher education across regional New South Wales. We will make sure we do not leave any student or any young person behind in regional New South Wales. That is why the investment for two more centres of the Country Universities Centre in partnership with the community….” 

Legislative Assembly Hansard – 05 June 2018