THE wheels are in motion towards getting a new Regional University Centre open in Wonthaggi by first semester 2021.

At its December council meeting, the Bass Coast Council embarked on a largely procedural public process to get approval for a 20-year lease for the uni centre, to be located in a former shire office complex, at 21-23 Baillieu Street East, Wonthaggi.

Cr Michael Whelan was happy to move the motion, effectively providing the building cost-free to the uni, as an ongoing subsidy.

“I say this largely on your behalf Mr Mayor because I know how hard you’ve ridden this one all the way. And it’s been a great project going after the $2 million for the establishment of the university,” Cr Whelan said.

“It provides a wonderful facility in our shire for young people who are pursuing tertiary studies. We have a low completion rate on tertiary studies, I think largely because of the remoteness, and a whole range of issues around having to carry out those studies in Melbourne.

“This is a support facility for those people. It’s effectively a procedural thing to put it out to the public, at least I hope it is, so a council is effectively subsidising this thing on an ongoing basis and it’s worth every dollar of it, $60,000 in foregone rent,” Cr Whelan said.

“But this is a great use of council facilities. I just can’t say enough about it. And congratulations to yourself, the CEO and all of your staff who have worked on this and those community people that participated on the steering committee. It’s just an excellent thing for our area,” he said.

The Mayor Cr Brett Tessari said he would be sure to pass on council’s thanks and congratulations to the whole team.

“Really it’s a great project that’s come out of council’s advocacy and one that was high up on our advocacy list,” Cr Clare Le Serve said.

“And, of course, thanks to the federal funding that we received, to my understanding, 2021 should be a good year for the first term opening of this uni.

“I think it really indicates the level of commitment by Bass Coast into local education, of, and it’s not just younger people these days that go back to uni or whatever, but training up that skill set that we will need into the future.

“I think it’s really important and the fact that it will have local employment opportunities too. So, you know, congratulations to all involved. I think this is a real win-win.”

Cr Ron Bauer was looking at how the university centre could connect with all schools in the region.

“I would like to just add to what Cr Le Serve said that it’s an extension of the development of our education system especially in Wonthaggi, and the surrounding areas can also use it,” Cr Bauer said.

“But it’s also a real asset to the proposed new high school in San Remo, which I hope one day goes from a junior high school to a fully-fledged high school to year 12, so that those children can also use this facility, and it becomes a complete shire hub.

“And I think it’s a really, really great step forward. I fully endorse the council’s efforts,” he said.

Cr Les Larke also congratulated council’s advocacy team.

He said he wholeheartedly supported the proposed lease arrangements as a subsidy for higher education, the main benefit of which, he said, would be providing options locally.

“Hopefully, it will enable young people to transition to tertiary education without the need to go to Melbourne and elsewhere,” Cr Larke said.

“We have had a drain on our young people leaving the Bass Coast Shire to do tertiary education. Then they go into work elsewhere, and they don’t come back, perhaps until they’re 45 or 55.

“So, I think this is a great opportunity to retain our young people and give them the facility that they so richly deserve.”


University report


According to a special report to council, the establishment of the Country Universities Centre Bass Coast will have a significant impact.

“It will help overcome challenges associated with young people living in the region:

* Fifty per cent of Bass Coast students who achieve their first preference university offer, do not accept. This can be related to limitations around travel, re-location, finances and an unwillingness to leave their community.

* The closest university providers are in Churchill and Frankston. These are 90 minutes’ drive away and there is no feasible public transport. Students must either have a car and their license to commute or relocate.

* Bass Coast experiences a shortfall in skilled workers. This shortfall will be amplified by forecast industry growth particularly in the areas of health and education. For example, Bass Coast Health’s $115 million expansion in Wonthaggi, and the new Community Hospital on Phillip Island, is expected to generate 700 new jobs for Bass Coast over the next three years. This will include hundreds of jobs requiring skilled and trained staff.

* The Country Universities Centre Bass Coast will provide local opportunities for people to pathway from training to employment.

* Bass Coast students are less likely to complete year 12, less likely to go to university, and less likely to start at university compared to metropolitan students.

Council will hear any submissions it receives at its February 2021 meeting.


Bass Coast university centre one step closer


THE Country Universities Centre (CUC) Bass Coast board is proud to announce the recruitment of its new centre manager, Andrea Evans-McCall, who hit the ground running in the role in late November.

CUC Bass Coast, in Wonthaggi, seeks to improve opportunities, capacities and knowledge in the local regional workforce and community and Andrea will play a crucial part in enabling students to connect to higher education.

CUC Bass Coast was given the green light through Commonwealth support announced earlier this year. CUC Bass Coast will also be supported by Bass Coast Shire Council.

Fit out works are anticipated to be completed by late February 2021, ready for the first semester starting March 1.

The Country Universities Centre (CUC) Bass Coast will be the first of its kind in Victoria – there are currently six CUCs in NSW.

The recruitment of the centre manager is a significant milestone as the centre progresses towards establishment for students in the coming months.

The CUC network seeks to create dedicated learning and study spaces that are designed for regional people by regional people. Across all Country Universities Centres, students have access to modern technology, high-speed internet and academic support, allowing them to thrive and succeed in their studies.

CUC Bass Coast will provide local students the opportunity to take advantage of a state-wide learning community and to connect to a larger network of like-minded people. Students will have access to academic workshops and face-to-face tutorials, all in an environment dedicated to lifelong study.

CUC Bass Coast chair Martin Keogh was delighted with the appointment of Andrea to centre manager.

“Andrea’s extensive experience and expertise in the education sector, her involvement at a community level and her passion for ongoing education will provide our centre with many advantages.

“On behalf of the board of directors of CUC Bass Coast, I wish her every success in the role and look forward to working with her to provide greater access to tertiary education within and beyond the Bass Coast Shire.”

Prior to joining CUC Bass Coast, Andrea was the National Disability Condition Officer (NDCO) for Gippsland for seven years, a program funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training.

Andrea brings a depth of knowledge as a practitioner and in leadership from across a range of educational sectors in practice and policy. She is passionate about inclusive education and learning, sharing through keynotes, workshops, networks and facilitation.

Andrea’s areas of expertise and knowledge include inclusive teaching, post-school career planning and employability skills development.

Andrea has travelled and lived overseas. She returned home to Bass Coast 12 years ago and is a proud mother of two sons.

And Andrea is a 2020 Churchill Fellow. Her fellowship project aim is to investigate employability skills development in inclusive learning environments.

“I am really excited to take up this new opportunity to drive change and empower the Bass Coast community to reach their potential through higher education,” Andrea said.

Any interested students, including those currently studying or interested in pursuing higher education, can contact Andrea at or call 0418 515 328.