Release type: Transcript


Interview - ABC Radio Far North


Senator the Hon Anthony Chisholm
Assistant Minister for Education
Assistant Minister for Regional Development

SUBJECTS: Cooktown Country Universities Centre.

CHARLIE McKILLOP [HOST]: Students in Cooktown can now access a tertiary education without leaving their home town. They are going to have the benefit of a Country Universities Centre, which I'm about to find out more about. I'd love to know if you are listening out in a remote part of Far North Queensland, as many of our listening areas are very remote, what kind of a difference this might make for you? Have you got aspirations of studying at a university, but so far just haven't been able to find the means or the wherewithal to travel hundreds of kilometres away and set yourself up in a foreign location and all the expense that comes with that. It's what makes the benefit of a Country Universities Centre to a centre like Cooktown all the more important. To tell us more about it the Assistant Federal Minister for Education, Senator Anthony Chisholm, is with you from Cooktown this morning. Senator, thank you very much for being with us. What is a Country Universities Centre?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks. Good to be with you and your listeners. It's a bit windy here in Cooktown, but a beautiful day nonetheless. These centres, there's 26 operational across the country and they're based in rural and remote locations, and they basically are expanding the opportunity for Australians to go to university. So, they're often set up with support of local community and it's regularly the council who drive it. That's the case here in Cooktown with Councillor Morris and Mayor Scott the ones driving this, and it basically gives people in the area the opportunity to study and gives them the facilities, computer access rooms to study, the ability to attend further study without having to move geographic locations. We already know that there's 20 students studying here in Cooktown, which is fantastic, because that might have been 20 people who wouldn't have studied if they couldn't study locally. So, it's expanding the opportunity for Australians to attend university and that's exactly what the government wants to achieve.

McKILLOP: So, it's a place to study rather than being a place of study? Is that the distinction?

CHISHOLM: Basically, yeah, because you can study at any university you want, so it's not restricted to a number of universities or a geographic location. You could be enrolled in Perth, or South Australia, or Melbourne, or Tasmania and study here in Cooktown. There's a full-time officer to help provide assistance to people, because quite often, I know I was the first in my family to go to university, they can be daunting places, so have someone to help provide some advice or provide some mentorship. There's also a full time Indigenous Engagement officer as well that will provide some outreach into local communities. Well, it's been proven successful when you look at the 3,400 students across the country that are studying at these centres, but we think that this will be a really good model here in Cooktown to provide some outreach to the local community as well.

McKILLOP: The Assistant Education Minister Anthony Chisholm with you on ABC Far North Breakfast. My name is Charlie and finding out a little bit more this morning about Country University Centres, of which one is about to open its doors in Cooktown. Senator, you've just mentioned that we already have 20 tertiary students in Cooktown. If this all goes to plan, how many more do you think a centre like this might be able to accommodate?

CHISHOLM: Well, I think that's the exciting thing, Charlie. I know some centres across the country have more than 50 people that are studying and some of those are quite small communities as well. So, what we expect of these centres is they'll provide the outreach into the community, but they'll also start talking to the schools as well, so that younger people, as part of their high school study, can actually understand that they don't have to move away to study. I can achieve good grades and stay and work with my family. And for cultural reasons, that's important. For local workforce reasons, that's important. But also, given the cost of living these days, Charlie, I think that the ability to move away and set up in a different geographic location is quite expensive for families. So, knowing that you can study and stay and live at home, I think will be a real positive for people who are considering further education, knowing that they can stay in their local region, live with their family, but still gain that higher education degree. And let's hope that in future, they're the nurses and the teachers that will live and work on the Cape, which would be fantastic.

McKILLOP: And Senator Chisholm, on the first day back for term three, are you seeing a lot of littlies around the streets of Cooktown so far this morning?

CHISHOLM: I did see a couple that were just getting some breakfast this morning and later today I’ll be visiting the local school as well, which I'm looking forward to having a chat to the staff and students there and I'm sure they'll be excited to be back at school after a couple of weeks off.

McKILLOP: I'm sure you're right. Senator Anthony Chisholm is the Assistant Federal Education Minister. Thanks for being with us on what's going to be a busy day in Cooktown.

CHISHOLM: Thanks, Charlie, good to be with you and your listeners.

McKILLOP: A busy and special day in Cooktown with that milestone being marked. The opening of a Country Universities Centre, which, as the Minister’s just described, will have a bunch of learning infrastructure, some video conferencing, computer facilities, high speed internet access and study spaces. So, a place to allow you to really focus on your studies and also some student support services, pastoral support, study advice and some help with accessing student services.