New Study Hub Brings Higher Education Opportunities to Innisfail

***Joint statement Vocational Partnerships Group with Cassowary Coast Regional Council***

27 March 2024

The Cassowary Coast region is poised for a significant advancement in higher education accessibility with the announcement of funding for a regional university study hub in Innisfail, spearheaded by community-based organisation Vocational Partnerships Group (VPG).

Innisfail will soon be among the proud hosts of ten new Regional University Study Hubs across Australia, after a $16 million investment from the Federal Government aimed at providing more students from small towns access to tertiary education.

Maryanne Tranter, VPG Chief Executive Officer, expressed her elation for the announcement.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for the Cassowary Coast community.

“With the establishment of this study hub, locals will have the opportunity to pursue their higher education dreams confidently, knowing that they have the support and resources readily available to help them achieve their academic goals.”

Ms Tranter emphasised the importance of extending educational opportunities to regional communities.

“Access to education shouldn’t come with a relocation price tag. People living in regional and rural communities deserve quality education opportunities like this, enabling them to reach their full potential without uprooting their lives or extensive travel to pursue their studies.

“By providing accessible higher education opportunities right here in Innisfail, we can nurture our local talent and encourage them to stay and contribute to the growth and prosperity of our region.

VPG previously established the Tablelands University Centre (TUC) in 2023, which has witnessed strong student engagement and success.

“In just 12 months since opening our doors at the TUC, we have seen incredible results working with over 100 local students. Now, the opportunity to extend this success for Cassowary Coast locals is just phenomenal,” said Ms Tranter.

VPG worked closely with the Cassowary Coast Regional Council (CCRC) to introduce this initiative in Innisfail.

The collaboration stemmed from the CCRC Youth Advisory Committee’s recognition of the pressing need to improve tertiary education access in the region, prompting joint efforts between council and VPG.

Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor Teresa Millwood marked the announcement as significant news for the Cassowary Coast.

“Supporting youth services and facilities was a priority identified by our community in the 2022 Cassowary Coast community scorecard, so this is a great step forward in delivering on our region’s aspirations,” Ms Millwood said.

“We thank VPG for leading the successful funding application and the Youth Advisory Committee for their initiative in bringing a regional university study hub to Innisfail.”

Tamara Gillard, CCRC Youth Advisory Committee member, local Innisfail teacher, and student pursuing a Master of Governance and Public Policy, echoed the sentiment, emphasising the importance of collaborative learning environments and equal access to higher education.

“I know how difficult it is to navigate just logging into a university portal and selecting subjects and all of those initial steps which is really isolating, so I think that having a team of people who can support with that and other students where they can go through those experiences together will be really useful.

“This regional university study hub is a really powerful way to allow more young people on the Cassowary Coast to pursue tertiary education because clearly there are many, many capable people here,” said Ms Gillard.

Education Minister Jason Clare made the announcement on Monday to fund ten new study hubs in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania to better support regional students.

“I want more people to get a crack at going to university and that’s what these hubs are all about.

“At the moment, almost half of young Australians in their 20s and 30s have a uni degree but that’s not the case everywhere. It’s certainly not the case in regional Australia.

“These hubs are places where people can go to do their degree but also talk to people who’ve been there and done that and can help people to put their assignments together, but also help them get through the sometimes long and lonely process of getting a university degree,” Mr Clare said.

Utilising existing CCRC infrastructure, the new regional university study hub will offer flexible learning spaces equipped with technology, resources, and tailored support services to enrolled students, with an expected opening by July 2024.

VPG has established formal partnerships with Central Queensland University and James Cook University who are backing the expansion of higher education access in regional areas.

The regional university study hub in Innisfail will be free to all registered students studying online with any Australian university or education institution.

***ENDS***

For further information, media interviews or photo opportunities please contact:
VPG Communications Officer – Jenna Happy – 0418 982 912
Email: jenna@vpginc.com.au

 

Cassowary Coast Regional Council – 0417 721 754
Email: comms@ccrc.qld.gov.au

 

Photo: CCRC Youth Advisory Committee members and local Innisfail community members who contributed to advocacy efforts for the establishment of a RUSH in Innisfail. 

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