Doorstop Interview – Canley Vale High School – Tuesday 18 July 2023

TUESDAY, 18 JULY 2023 

SUBJECTS: The Australian University’s Accord Interim Report; University Study Hubs; The Voice to Parliament. 

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks very much for coming along to my old high school, Canley Vale High. Tomorrow I’ll release this report, the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report. And what this report says is that over the next ten years, 9 out of 10 new jobs will require you to finish high school and then go on to TAFE or to university. And that means in the years ahead, we need more young people to finish high school and go on to TAFE or go on to university.

Today, almost 1 in 2 young people in their 20s and their 30s have a university degree. But not everywhere. Not in the western suburbs of Sydney, not in the western suburbs of Melbourne, not in the western suburbs of Brisbane, not in regional Australia. And we need to change that.

I want more young people to get a crack at going to university. I want to make sure that you don’t have to live within a 10-kilometre radius of the CBD to get a crack at going to university. And at the moment, the evidence shows that postcode is a massive barrier for young people getting that chance. Whether it means moving from the regions to the cities, or whether it’s the long commute to get to university or needing to move into the city to rent. We need to break down that barrier.

Now, university centres are a part of that. There are 34 university centres around the country at the moment, and the evidence shows that they help to increase participation of young people in the towns where these centres are at the moment. And the first recommendation in this report is that we should expand those centres.

I can announce today that we will double the number of university hubs right across the country. 20 more in regional Australia, and for the first time ever, 14 of these university hubs in the outer suburbs of our major cities, particularly in areas where university participation is low.

I know as a young fellow growing up here in Western Sydney, that university felt like a place that was somewhere else, for someone else. And a lot of people I went to school with here at Canley Vale High School either didn’t finish high school at all or when they finished high school, didn’t go on to university. When you drive around Western Sydney, you see a lot of McDonald’s logos and a lot of KFC logos. You don’t see a lot of university logos. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

I want to make sure that more young people from our outer suburbs get a crack at university, that more young people from our regions get a crack at university, and this is one part of it, bringing university closer to them. I see this as a beachhead, a start, where in the future we’ll be building campuses so that we’re making sure that more young people from our suburbs get a chance to go to university.

Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Western Sydney is blessed with more big campuses than it was back in 1989. I went passed a big one near the train at Bankstown. Are there not enough for students in this?

CLARE: I see that as just the start. This is a big city, a city of more than 2 million people. It’s big enough for more than Western Sydney University. I opened that new campus in Bankstown in December. It’s absolutely brilliant. 18 stories high. It used to be a car park, a council car park for 40 odd cars. Now it’s 18 stories for thousands of young people in the heart of Bankstown.

And the logos, I don’t know if you drove through during the day or the night. If you drive through in the night, you can see blazing across the skyline of Bankstown, “Western Sydney University”. Barney Glover, the Vice Chancellor, promises me that those logos are 15 per cent bigger than any logos he’s put on any buildings to date. Sounds funny, it’s important because if you’re driving down Rickard Road and you see that sign, you think, “maybe I could go there one day”. For young people going to high school in Bankstown and they do an event there, they think, “maybe I could go there one day”. So, that building is important. Same at Parramatta. Same potentially at Blacktown. So are these hubs.

Western Sydney is a big place and what this report tells us is that we need more people to go to university and in particular, more people from our suburbs and our regions. If we don’t, we won’t have the skills as well as the economic firepower that we’re going to need in the years ahead to fire up our economy and make sure we’re everything that we can possibly be.

JOURNALIST: So, with Western Sydney hubs, what problem are they overcoming? Is it a lack of transport to these sort of hub campuses like Bankstown and Blacktown?

CLARE: In part. The department will select where the hubs will go, and we’ll invite local councils to bid for where these centres might go. It’ll be an independent selection process.

Sometimes it’s a lack of transport, sometimes it’s the fact that it’s a long commute. Just bringing a hub closer to where you live will entice or encourage people who otherwise might decide not to go to university at all to give it a crack. They have the opportunity at a hub like this, not just to go to the university that might be 10 or 20 kilometres away, but to go to any university and do almost any course online.

JOURNALIST: What degree do you think living costs are an impediment to students from this part of the world and other parts of Australia like this?

CLARE: If you talk to Vice Chancellors at the moment, you’ll see that’s having an impact right now. It means that some students aren’t doing a full load, that they’re doing a part time load and they’re working a part time job or working more hours at the moment to make ends meet. If you’re a student that’s not living at home and you’re renting, then it’s tough as well. It’s one of the reasons we increased rental assistance in the budget this year.

But this report also talks about the cost of living generally. And you’ll see when I release the report tomorrow, the focus of this report is looking at not just the cost of degrees, but the cost of living for students as well. And most importantly of all the cost of kids from our outer suburbs, and our regions missing out on university altogether.

JOURNALIST: So, should we expect some recommendations addressing the cost-of-living issue?

CLARE: You’ll see tomorrow a report in two parts. A report that will have some immediate recommendations for us to act on right now. And I’ve announced one of those today. And you’ll also see in the report where the Accord team are doing further work and further thinking, and where they’ll be inviting members of the public, universities, businesses, unions and other stakeholders to give them further advice before they provide me and the government and the parliament with their final report at the end of the year.

JOURNALIST: I noticed a picture of the echidna on the front of the report. Should we assume from that the report is going to contain some spiky ideas?

CLARE: I couldn’t possibly comment. I’ve promised to reveal the purpose and the reason behind the echidna tomorrow, so you’ll just have to wait and see.

JOURNALIST: The yes and no arguments, for and against a Voice to Parliament have been published online. The No campaign is leaning on the old “if you don’t know, vote no”. Do you admit that’s quite an effective slogan?

CLARE: This is about two things. First, it’s about recognising the fact that Australia didn’t start 250 odd years ago when Captain Cook arrived. Australia’s story goes back tens of thousands of years. And second, it’s about listening. When you listen, you get better results, and you use taxpayers’ money better. What the No campaign is effectively saying is that what’s happening today is good enough. I don’t think it is.

If you’re a young Indigenous person today, you’re likely to die ten years younger than the rest of us. You’re more likely to die at childbirth. You’re more likely to take your own life. You’re more likely to go to jail than to university. Imagine if that was your life. You wouldn’t cop that. That’s not good enough. And this is a chance to change that.

Johnathan Thurston nailed this in his contribution to the Yes campaign where he said that by doing this, we give more young, Indigenous Australians a chance to be their very best. And I think he said it better than any politician. This is about helping to make sure that more young Indigenous Australians get a fair crack. And if you listen to people, you get better results and you use taxpayers’ money better. It’s as simple as that.