Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan says regional Members of Parliament must stand up for their communities and adopt a national regional education strategy.
Ms McGowan called on her regional colleagues to account for failing to adopt the strategy proposed in her amendments to the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment Bill, 2017.
The measure had the support of the Australian Labor Party and cross bench, but was rejected by the government.
‘‘This legislation as it stands is not a good deal for regional universities and students and I do not support it,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘There is still time for representatives of regional electorates to listen and act for their communities as the legislation passes through the Senate.’’
Acknowledging the work of the Regional Universities Network, and La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities, Ms McGowan said the proposal for a national regional education strategy had the overwhelming support of the higher education sector.
‘‘People in the regions understand the vital role universities play in driving the economic, social and cultural value of their communities,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘They are a driver of economic growth and development, key employers, and a major attractor to young people, and they can make the difference between economic survival and going backwards.
‘‘At $21.6 million over the period to 2021, adopting this amendment would be a relatively small investment with an enormous benefit for the regions.’’
Ms McGowan said she would continue to represent the concerns of the people of Indi.
‘‘To my colleagues representing the regions I say, show your commitment to what we know to be true: this is too important to let go. Please stand up for rural and regional Australia.’’
Ms McGowan had tabled a motion in Parliament on Monday, September 11, calling on the government to develop a regional education strategy. It was, however, not adopted.
Students in Benalla have the option to go onto higher education at La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga, Bendigo, or Shepparton Campuses, if they wish to remain in the area.
According to the Regional Universities Network, three-quarters of those will stay in the regions to work.
Those who choose to attend a metropolitan university, however, are much less likely to return.
Ms McGowan acknowledged Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie for her work on higher education, but said there was still something missing.
‘‘A National Strategy would support the role of regionally based higher education providers in creating diverse and resilient regional economies,’’ Ms McGowan said.
‘‘Central to good regional policy is the recognition of the workforce and economic development requirements of the community and this is underpinned by the TAFEs and Universities.
‘‘Access to high-quality tertiary education does more than educate the future workforce in regional communities, however.
‘‘They play a central role in the economic, social and cultural development of their regions.’’