Seeking to expand its health and human services programs to address chronic shortages of health professionals in rural and regional communities, Charles Sturt University (CSU) has submitted an application to the Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund (EIF) for $63.6 million.
If successful, the funding will be used to deliver 12 new courses from CSU in Orange and to build a world-leading paramedic education facility in Bathurst.
The project has a total value of over $84 million, with co-contributions from CSU of $19 million, $1.27 million from the NSW government, $200,000 from the Charles Sturt University Foundation Trust and around $60,000 from the Bathurst Regional and Orange City Councils.
“This has been one of the most comprehensive and detailed applications Charles Sturt University has ever prepared, involving hundreds of staff hours and a massive commitment of time and energy by the University, its students and our numerous supporters in the community,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said.
“If successful, the funding will allow us to build a world-leading paramedic facility on the Bathurst Campus including outdoor simulation facilities, an emergency simulation unit and expanded laboratory infrastructure.
“Charles Sturt University has been looking at ways to build this leading-edge facility for a number of years to ensure future paramedics are well prepared for the expanded roles they play at the frontline of our health system.
“The infrastructure will also allow for further expansion of undergraduate nursing programs, and see the addition of new degrees in social work and social welfare in Bathurst.”
Professor Vann said that in Orange, the University will more than double the number of health courses on offer including medical imaging, radiation therapy, occupational therapy, podiatry and a range of postgraduate nursing degrees for nurse practitioners and mental health nurses.
“The project will see around 1500 new full-time students on the Orange and Bathurst campuses, strengthening student life and delivering enormous flow-on benefits to our communities.”
An economic impact analysis by the Western Research Institute found that the project will create 370 new full-time equivalent jobs, and generate $41.4 million per annum in value added expenditure.
“This is on top of the 192 full time jobs that will be created during the construction period and $21.5 million in economic value add,” Professor Vann explained.
“This is the type of infrastructure investment that will secure the long-term future of Orange and Bathurst after the mining boom.
“More important, the project will deliver the highly skilled health professionals rural communities have been crying out for.”
Train in the bush, retain in the bush
Professor Vann reiterated that more than 70 per cent of CSU’s on campus health and human services students are from rural areas, and more than 80 per cent of these highly skilled graduates go on to employment in rural areas.
“Charles Sturt University’s success in ‘training in the bush, and retaining in the bush’ was praised last week by NSW Health Minister, The Hon. Jillian Skinner, MP, when she visited Bathurst,” he said.
“This recognition was the product of the hard work of Member for Bathurst, Paul Toole, who has been a good friend of the University and a strong advocate in Macquarie Street.
“Through his determination, Charles Sturt University was able to secure an initial co-contribution from the NSW government of $1.27 million to make this project a reality.
“The University and NSW government will work together over the coming weeks to identify additional sources of support should the project get the green light from the Federal Government.”
CSU’s EIF application was a community effort, with letters of support coming from Orange and Bathurst councils, CENTROC, Regional Development Australia Central West, Local Health Networks across rural NSW, the Western Institute of TAFE, the Western Region of Department of Education and Communities, local schools such as Kinross Wolaroi, local businesses and chambers of commerce, and other community groups.
“Most importantly, the project got the green light and strong endorsement of our students,” Professor Vann said.
“This initiative will help to transform the delivery of health science through a new model of interprofessional education that will help to prepare students for the requirements of contemporary health practice.
“It will allow Charles Sturt University to replicate our successful health science disciplines across multiple campuses, and allow for continuous improvement in the quality of education by growing enrolments in a range of health disciplines.
“While the project will not deliver our much sought after rural medical program, it will further strengthen our capacity in health sciences and reinforce rural community demands for serious and proven solutions to the rural doctor crisis,” he said.
The $480 million Regional Priorities Round of EIF was announced by the federal government in September 2011 to support major projects that will increase the number of rural and regional students enrolling in university in areas of regional workforce shortages.
Charles Sturt University’s EIF application follows a major program of investment across its campuses, including more than $100 million invested in veterinary science, oral health, wine science and campus refurbishment in Wagga Wagga; $100 million relocation and expansion of the Albury-Wodonga Campus; more than $5 million for the dental and oral health centre in Dubbo; and $23 million campus developments in Port Macquarie and Wangaratta.
The successful applicants in the EIF Regional Priorities Round are expected to be announced in the May Budget.