Future Investment in Regional Australia
Regional capitals such as Wagga Wagga provide a central point of access to essential infrastructure and services including health, business, employment and education. As the national economy develops, some regional cities and towns will grow while others decline while regional populations are ageing in line with national and international trends. Additionally, while the population is ageing, Australians are living longer than ever before and have one of the longest life expectancies in the world.
The Regional Capitals Australia Board has been actively engaging Federal Members of Parliament on these important issues and as a result on 11 February 2015, the Australian Senate launched an inquiry into "The future role and contribution of regional capitals to Australia".
The Senate Enquiry will look into the effects of capital investment in regional Australia and provides Wagga Wagga the chance to emphasise the need for an increased policy and investment focus to enable our city to reach its full potential.
Part of the regional investment focus must be based on improving the skills of the regional labour force through considered and consultative funding allocation to education institutions such as regional TAFE's and universities. In Wagga Wagga, approximately 13,000 people each year are enrolled in the four major tertiary education providers based in the city, Charles Sturt University; TAFE Riverina Institute; University of Notre Dame and the University of New South Wales. Wagga Wagga City Council's recommendations to the Enquiry included recognition for the valuable contribution education providers make to the regions they service and be adequately supported through Federal Government policy.
Investment from Charles Sturt University in the Wagga Wagga Campus has been greater than $100 million since 2010 while the introduction of UNSW and University of Notre Dame Rural Clinical Schools have provided the opportunity for locals and others to study medicine while still enjoying the benefits of a rural lifestyle. This opportunity is also seen as an advantage in regional areas attracting health professionals to reverse the current trends of the rural doctor shortage. The investment from the organisations has been forthcoming; this commitment to the regions should be encouraged and supported.
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