WHILE the growth of Mandurah is good news for many, such rapid growth comes with challenges that, unless carefully managed, can turn a region’s success story into a disaster.
Across all regions in WA, Peel has the highest rate of unemployment in age groups, with the exception of the 65 plus age bracket.
According to ABS 2001 census figures 17.4 per cent of 20 to 24 year olds and 12 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds are unemployed.
The region also has one of the lowest tertiary eduction participation rates in Australia.
A survey of lifelong learning ranked out of 100 placed Perth residents at 76 and Bunbury residents at 51. The Peel region scored a dismal 13.
Given that the region is experiencing a massive population increase, the figures are not encouraging.
However, a change in these trends is anticipated with the establishment of Murdoch University in Mandurah.
It is hoped that the introduction of the university into the region will be instrumental in encouraging more of the local population to enter into tertiary education, buoy the local economy and further the development of the region.
The university is strongly committed to the relatively new model for Australia of creating stronger ties between the employment needs of local industry and education provided in the region.
Setting up a Peel campus is a natural progression for the university. Besides its Murdoch campus, Murdoch established a Rockingham campus in 1996.
The university has had great success linking its educational courses to suit the skill demands of the industrial strip in Kwinana, with the Rockingham campus developing a strong engineering course focus.
Rockingham has a campus population of 910 students after an initial intake of 26 students in 1996.
Buoyed by their success and detecting the need for a tertiary institution in the fast-growing region, the university successfully bid for a Federal Government grant of $2.5 million to construct the first stage of a Peel Murdoch campus.
Construction is expected to commence towards the end of the year.
Murdoch is currently applying for a further $4.9 million in funding from the Federal Government and is investing $4 million of its own funds to build the second stage of the campus.
The university is aiming to have the Peel campus operational next year and to have a student population of 650 by 2007, which translates to around 1,000 people working or studying on the campus.
Pro vice chancellor of regional development Professor Kateryna Longley said Murdoch University was committed to becoming the “university of the region” and hoped it would become a transformational force in Peel’s development.
Professor Longley said the low tertiary participation rate in the region was of great concern as education was a real driver of regional economic and social indicators.
She said Murdoch was focused on working hand in hand with industry and local government to match employment needs with education.
“We know we can make a difference and be a transformational force in the region,” Professor Longley said.
In collaboration with the City of Mandurah, which has given the university a $1 million interest free loan to help kick start the new campus, the Peel Development Commission and the local community, Murdoch is currently investigating what will be the most appropriate and useful courses to run.
Professor Longley said the campus would have a health focus.
She said the first course to be run would be a Bachelor of Nursing with an allocation for 80 students.
“We are already being overwhelmed with enquiries and are being swamped with phone calls,” Professor Longley said.
Other courses currently being considered include health management, pharmacy, psychology and small business development.
Professor Longley said the dangers of areas experiencing either rapid growth or stagnant growth were similar and that the lack of opportunities for young people and high unemployment were a great concern for the Peel region.
“In the Peel region there is a looming success story or disaster story,” she said.
Professor Longley said she believed the region could turn this situation around and that the introduction of tertiary education into Peel would be a positive influence on the region’s development.
“It is well documented that a regional campus can have a transformational effect on the economy and on the triple bottom line of a region,” she said.
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