I rise in support of these bills, which we are debating cognately this evening
and which on this occasion cover four universities in this state. Those are
Deakin University, La Trobe University, Monash University and the University of
The four main objectives of the bills before us tonight are to
modernise the foundation legislation of Victoria’s universities to conform with
contemporary standards and expectations, to introduce greater flexibility in
governance and administration, to standardise powers and provisions across each
of the university acts and to remove redundant and obsolete provisions.
Before I go on to the technical elements I want to take this
opportunity to focus primarily on Deakin University, which comprises four
campuses, three of which are in the electorate of Western Victoria Region. Since
the university’s establishment in 1974 and the official opening of Deakin’s
first campus in Waurn Ponds, Geelong, in 1977, Deakin has grown to include
campuses on the Geelong waterfront, in Warrnambool and of course in Burwood.
Deakin is entrenched in Warrnambool and the south-west.
It is engrained in the make-up of Geelong, and it plays a
pivotal leadership role in the local Geelong community. It provides yet another
world-class tertiary facility here in Melbourne, along with the other
universities included in the debate before us this evening.
Deakin is recognised as Australia’s fastest growing research
institution and has facilities such as the Geelong Technology Precinct in Waurn
Ponds, which was opened by the former Premier, the Honourable Steve Bracks, in
late 2004. It boasts a rapidly increasing pool of international staff and
students who are attracted by the successes of Deakin University and the
excellent facilities and infrastructure. This university has well and truly
become a fundamental part of western Victoria. Its commitment and dedication to
the needs of western Victoria have been demonstrated as it has delivered some of
the most valuable and important projects and facilities that our region has
On 1 May 2008 it was a pleasure to witness the Prime Minister
of Australia, Kevin Rudd, formally open Deakin University’s medical school,
which was Victoria’s first new medical school for more than 40 years and the
first regional medical school in this state’s history. The medical school is
designed to address rural and regional medical workforce issues, with the course
providing strong links with rural and regional Australia. In 2010 and 2011
students will be learning in general practice around western Victoria in towns
including Stawell, Horsham, Hamilton, Daylesford, Colac, Camperdown and Ararat
as well as being in the major regional hospitals such as South West Healthcare
in Warrnambool, the Geelong Hospital and the Ballarat hospital.
With the ideal location of the Warrnambool campus for
specialist studies in marine biology and aquaculture, Deakin provides a great
facility not only for the south-west but also for the state of Victoria in terms
of research in this field and provides much-needed support for the aquaculture
Deakin University, together with the full support of federal
and state Labor governments, has grown to be one of Australia’s best
universities, all the while remaining exceedingly focused on providing
educational opportunities of the highest possible quality for the widest
possible demographic of people.
Deakin has always taken a very innovative approach to
education, and it has done this in a very direct, technological way. It has
integrated online teaching and learning into its course curriculum — its units
and its courses. What is now known as Deakin Studies Online, or DSO, provides
students with a valuable tool to access information and easy access to
lecturers, tutors and other students to assist in their studies from anywhere in
the world. This is particularly useful for students living a substantial
distance from one of the campuses; for instance, in any part of rural Victoria
or overseas. But it is the attitude that Deakin has always had.
It is ‘What can Deakin do for its students and the communities
in which it resides?’, but also ‘How can Deakin do it in the best possible
way?’. As I have mentioned, it has done it in terms of flexible delivery of
off-campus teaching, including the Koori education program which has intensive
study blocks and off-campus community-based delivery.
Deakin also has the Vera White Disability
Resource Centre which provides access to support resources and representation
for students with disabilities. We have also seen the recent introduction of
tri-semester learning where students can complete their degrees in significantly
shorter periods of time, and of course that will assist particularly mature-age
students and students from overseas who are undertaking studies.
I have described at some length some of the activities at
Deakin but not just because it has three campuses in western Victoria. Moreover,
Deakin University is a great example of how universities have shifted and
When we think about universities of 30 years ago when I was on
campus, when we think about the universities that were around 40 years ago with
the experience Mr Hall kindly talked about, when we think about universities of
100 years ago or 156 years ago when the University of Melbourne was first
established, all of what has been presented tonight reflects how universities
have changed in every sense of the word. That is why we have these bills before
us tonight — because they will allow Deakin University, as well as the
Melbourne, La Trobe and Monash universities, to continue their successful
practices in providing the valuable contribution they do to this state as well
as nationally and internationally.
The bills will achieve a greater flexibility in governance and
administration and standardise powers across each of the university acts and
will raise the foundation legislation for Victoria’s universities to modern
standards and expectations.
At present all of this state’s university acts are based on the
original University Act 1853, which was written when the University of Melbourne
was established. Of course there have been many amendments to the act, but this
is an opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise it and ensure we have a proper fit.
This is an opportunity to complete the modernisation of Victoria’s legislation
in education and training, which began in 2006 with the Education and Training
Reform Act 2006.
The constituencies of our universities differ. Thus each
university provides its services in unique ways, and this legislation encourages
that diversity. These bills, when they become legislation, will give each
university the flexibility to determine what is best for it in terms of the
number of university council members — somewhere between 14 and 21 — whilst
also providing guidelines governing the regulatory activities of universities.
The bills remove the prescriptive detail from the legislation
about operating matters, leaving these types of issues for individual
universities to determine in the best interests of the university and its staff
and students. Our higher education institutions will be able to move in a more
agile way, which will make them more able to respond quickly to the growing
challenges which confront them, whether they be domestic or international.
The commitment to the remaking of each of Victoria’s university
acts was made by the Brumby Labor government in its statement of government
intentions, and I am pleased to speak in support of these bills. I commend the
bills to the house.