My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education representing the Minister for Training and Skills in the other place. The action I seek is that the minister call on the chancellor of Deakin University and the Deakin University council to meet with the Deakin University Warrnambool campus working group to discuss the claim that a Warrnambool campus is not viable and the economic business case on which Deakin University based its decision.
I have never seen a community more outraged and motivated than I have seen right now in the South-West Coast region. The recent announcement made by Deakin University to exit the Warrnambool campus has seen people stepping up in numbers. The first public meeting was overflowing. I have received delegations of current and former lecturers and professors, students past and present, and businesses that employ graduates, including accounting and solicitor firms and the hospitals from across the region. The mayors from all the local government areas are calling me daily. Further, at the request of the community, I have written to the chancellor and the Deakin council to seek a meeting with community leaders. They want to be given the opportunity to present their case.
My community is concerned that the figures and data presented to the community as the rationale for this closure are not correct. I have seen data that challenges the facts being presented by Deakin. It challenges the reasons behind the campus being considered unsustainable. Further, some believe this data is only the result of a ‘decline by design’ approach, and the priority to build an internationally recognised research reputation at the expense of the regional students’ experiences and student outcomes is believed by the community to be the driver behind the agenda.
The silence from the Minister for Training and Skills has only fuelled the community’s outrage. I called on the minister more than two weeks ago, but he has ignored my invitation to engage with me. I ask the minister to come out from under his desk, visit the region and talk to my community. Given that two years ago the state gave Deakin the funds to build new accommodation for students at Warrnambool, if the campus has been such a bad performer, does this not fly in the face of the demand for student accommodation?
The Labor Party claims to care about education, and it made many statements before the election that it would open campuses. Why are those opposite now so silent when country kids are at risk of being denied future tertiary education opportunities, which Deakin built in our region with state money? I say to Minister Herbert: you have a job to do — get on and do it. I call on the minister to take action and organise this meeting.