Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I rise to speak on the 2012 annual report of the University of Ballarat. The University of Ballarat has a proud history that dates all the way back to the gold rush period, the mid-1800s, and in fact it is the third-oldest tertiary institution in Australia. The School of Mines was first established in 1870, and offered courses such as mining engineering, geology, education and business studies, while the technical division provided programs such as wool classing, plumbing and bricklaying. It is an institution that has served the needs of the local community for a very long time. With its history dating back so far it is fair to say that the University of Ballarat and University of Ballarat TAFE are not only institutions of Ballarat, but are a part of what Ballarat is.
As of 1 January next year the University of Ballarat will amalgamate with Monash University’s Gippsland campus to form Federation University Australia. This house is familiar with the details because the bill relating to the name change came before us a couple of months ago and was universally supported. Federation University Australia will be the state’s first wholly regional university. It is only appropriate that that be the case because the University of Ballarat has demonstrated, particularly through its current vice-chancellor, Professor Battersby, that it truly understands regional education and the need for accessible, high-quality education provision in regional Victoria. Under the leadership of Professor Battersby we have seen enormous changes take place, and I sincerely believe that without his counsel and his leadership we would not be seeing Federation University Australia take its place amongst other institutions come 1 January next year.
In his letter introducing the report Professor Battersby talks about 2012 having been a year of transition that was full of challenges, and indeed it was, because it was a year when we saw enormous cuts to TAFE funding. Of course in 2013 we have seen that play out with a number of staff cuts and with courses cut as well. One can only hope that in 2014 we will experience a year of consolidation for the institution, not just in Ballarat but across other areas of regional Victoria. But at the end of the day, however good you are as the leader of a higher education institution, however good you are as a council member of a university, the reality is that even with the best footwork and the best juggling and an ability to deal with myriad situations, if you do not have sufficient funds to provide proper, high-quality education, you continue to chase the tail of the organisation.
I feel enormously for what the higher levels of management have had to tackle in terms of funding cuts, but I am also particularly concerned, and will have ongoing concern, about the impact the budget cuts have had on staff and students in all TAFEs, particularly those in regional Victoria. My concern goes also to access issues for young people at a time when we have particularly high youth unemployment in this state, particularly in regional Victoria.
Before closing I would like to highlight the 11 people who between them had accrued 279 years of service and who left the organisation during the reporting period. That is a fantastic effort. In particular Mr Dennis Hawkes, a teacher in the school of manufacturing and construction, provided nearly 36 years of employment service to the university.