La Trobe to expand on Fryer St helped by $5 million grant

By Myles Peterson

La Trobe’s Fryer St campus will soon have a new building to accommodate the university’s fastest growing regional campus, partially thanks to a $5million contribution from the Federal Government.

On the election trail yesterday, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said the $5million announced was already budgeted and locked in as were the majority of announcements made in recent weeks.

‘‘I think it’s worth noting there’s been a whole raft of announcements in the last month or so and all of them are cash,’’ he said.

Tuesday’s commitment of $58million nationally for apprenticeship scholarships, with Shepparton hosting one of 10 youth employment hubs, was the only non-funded election promise, according to Mr Drum.

‘‘The employment hub yesterday is obviously an election commitment, but ... the money for the FruitCo investment of $15million, the money for the Art Museum, $15 million, the money for the cancer centre is real money. So, we are not just throwing around election commitments,’’ he said.

‘‘Today’s $5 million investment in La Trobe’s CBD campus, again, it’s $5 million of Federal Government spend.’’

With the Nationals’ MP facing the prospect of going into opposition should Labor win the May poll as predicted, the distinction between unfunded campaign promises and budgeted commitments could determine if the money ends up getting spent.

While thanking Mr Drum for the $5 million investment, La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John Dewar said no matter the election outcome, the university’s Shepparton campus would receive its new annex.

‘‘(The annex) will be completed in the next couple of years. It’s just a question of how big it will be as we have funding to complete two storeys and we can go ahead and do that,’’ he said.

Need for the annex was being driven by La Trobe’s rapid expansion in Shepparton, Prof Dewar said.

‘‘We have four regional campuses; Bendigo, Wodonga, Mildura and Shepparton. Shepparton is actually the one that’s been growing the fastest over the last 10 years,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of that is to do with the fact that the Federal Government had faith in what we were doing including this building — that was a $10 million investment about 10 years ago. And what is fantastic about this announcement is it will continue that investment, continue the community’s confidence in the university to meet their educational needs.’’

The university will now wait for the Victorian Government to indicate its support for the project before finalisation, although traditionally, universities receive their funding from the federal government .

‘‘It’s just a question of how big it will be as we have funding to complete two storeys and we can go ahead and do that. But we would love the State Government to invest in putting an additional floor on the building,’’ Prof Dewar said.

Mr Drum said he was a big supporter of Greater Shepparton’s tertiary education institutions including GOTAFE, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe’s Fryer St campus.

‘‘We can’t underestimate the importance of having a university in our CBD. There is a whole raft of other cities around Australia who would be absolutely craving what we have here,’’ he said.