House debates

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Questions without Notice

Higher Education: Regional Higher Education

2:13 pm

Photo of Cathy McGowanCathy McGowan (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Education. Minister, last week I spoke at the Regional Universities Conference hosted by Southern Cross University. We discussed how regional higher education institutes support workforce development, create jobs and drive regional growth. Education, employment and infrastructure provide the anchors for regional population growth and need to be part of any population policy. Minister, can you give us an update on how regional education will be integral to population policy, and an update on the government's response to the recommendation of the Regions at the ready report for a national regional higher education strategy?

2:14 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. She knows, as all members in this House who represent regional and rural electorates know, the importance of regional education to our regions, and not only the importance of education but also the importance of employment and of infrastructure, and, with anything that this government does to help drive population growth into the regions, she can rest assured that education will be central to that, that infrastructure will be central to that and also that employment will be central to that.

I advise the member that, currently, there are 400,000 primary and secondary students living in regional, rural and remote Australia. This is compared to around 214,000 tertiary students who are living in the regions. What we want to see is many of those students at the primary and secondary level going on to either a first-class tertiary education or first-class vocational training. That is what we are trying to do, and we know that that will help when it comes to population growth. The Regional Universities Network, the conference at which the member spoke, has estimated that between 60 and 80 per cent of their recent graduates are now currently employed in regional areas. That is proof-positive that, if we can educate our children in the regions, they will stay there and they will be employed there.

I was also asked about progress on the Regions at the Ready report. I commend the member for Murray, who chaired that committee. It is an excellent report. It rightly points out that local education and training that is engaged in its community is pivotal to regional development and decentralisation. That's absolutely true. I am looking very closely at the recommendations in that report which are relevant to education, and I will have more to say on those matters. And I know that the relevant minister is also looking at the broader report and will have more to say on that very shortly. It is an important piece of work when it comes to advising the government on what we should be doing to grow our regions in a very sustainable way and in a way which encourages our young to not only look to the capital cities but to look to their own communities as places where they can be educated, where they can go on to build families and where they can go on to be successfully employed. That is what we want to see as a government. I thank the member for her question.