Education precinct plea

WELLINGTON Shire runs the risk of having a “rented shopfront” for the newly-created Federation Training if the higher education precinct near the Port of Sale does not go ahead, according to mayor Scott Rossetti.

Wellington Shire Council will discuss the Port of Sale project with the board of Federation Training, which came into being last week following the merger of Advance TAFE and GippsTAFE.

Council will remind the board and the state government that the development for the vocational education and training and higher education precinct was one of top three priorities of the One Gippsland campaign involving local government and business.

The site earmarked for the higher education precinct was previously home to the Sale Netball Association and Gippsland Armed Forces Museum.

Over seven years, members of the SNA fought for a suitable venue to relocate to, opening up space for the proposed TAFE facility.

The Gippsland Regional Sports Complex was officially opened in 2011.

The Advance TAFE annual report, tabled in state parliament last week, revealed the institute had written off more than $2 million in capitalised costs associated with the Port of Sale site.

Cr Rossetti, who was Advance TAFE chairman before the merger, said TAFE infrastructure was dated in Wellington Shire.

“The campuses we’ve got are very dispirited; they’re spread out, not really serving a purpose at all, indeed, the Port of Sale project was meant to bring all of those together,” he said.

“We do have a series of risks in the ‘cleaning up’ of the different TAFE campuses in only having maybe a rented shopfront in our own shire, which is one of the major centres in Gippsland.

“I don’t think it’s good enough.

“The Port of Sale project is critical to education in this region.

“We certainly look forward to those discussions with Federation Training and the state government.

“The reasons for the Port of Sale project are just as compelling now with this new paradigm as they were before the hard work that’s gone into obtaining the site.

“There’s no arguing about the lack of post-secondary education … we need that site developed to be part of that exciting new gathering together of higher ed.”

Cr Rossetti said the amalgamation of the TAFEs and proposed integration with Federation University in 2016 would provide many benefits to Gippsland, such as the potential for students to begin studying a TAFE course and finish with a university degree.

“The key is that accessibility,” he said.

“Having a university in Churchill is all well and good, but with no public transport to speak of from Wellington Shire, for instance, it’s no great advantage over having it in Melbourne in many ways.

“The advantage of having TAFE and higher ed together is having people being able to go to major centres Bairnsdale, Sale, Traralgon, Morwell, Warragul and actually sign up at those places and start a course.

Cr Carolyn Crossley said the changes to higher education in Gippsland during the past year, which included the Monash University Gippsland campus being taken over by the University of Ballarat to create Federation University, provided a great opportunity for the region.

“There’s a really exciting time ahead, but we’re also working to really affirm that it’s important for our community, the Wellington Shire, to make sure that what we’ve been working for for a very long time, for the development of the Port of Sale precinct as a higher education precinct,” she said.

“For this model to work it really needs to have up-to-date facilities to provide current and up-to-date training.”

Deputy mayor Patrick McIvor it was important for council to advocate to Federation Training and the state government that the community needed the new facility.

“It’s important that we continue to partner with Federation Training and Federation University so that we can continue to champion this outcome for the region.

“This new campus that will exist in the centre of Sale, if we all get our way, will be vital to education outcomes in the region.

“Let’s not forget that the reason why this whole thing has been undertaken is because higher education outcomes in Gippsland are shockingly low when compared to the rest of the state.

“The goal here is to improve higher education outcomes for the region to take lots of bibs and bobs that are around the place, to take a dusty old campus out at Fulham and to advance it to the next stage.”

A spokesperson for Higher Education Minister Nick Wakeling said the new Federation Training board would be responsible for determining what infrastructure it required and how to spend the $40.2 million it received from the state government’s TAFE Structural Adjustment Fund. 

“The Port of Sale site is one of a number of assets the board of Federation Training will need to assess when considering the best structure for meeting the future vocational education and training needs of the Gippsland community,” the spokesperson said.

About half of the government’s funding package is for asset development.