The University of Tasmania was proud to join the West Coast community in recently marking a significant milestone for education and training access in the region.
A celebration event was held on Wednesday, 21 August to officially open a new, federally-funded Regional Study Hub in Zeehan.
The site has been established to support local students in pursuing further learning without having to leave the West Coast.
It provides essential facilities such as internet access, computers, study spaces and video conferencing equipment, in addition to academic and on-the-ground support.
The achievement stems from a partnership between the University and West Coast community known as the West Coast Education Project which aims to improve social, economic and educational outcomes in the region.
University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said the West Coast community had seized the opportunity to make education more accessible.
“Like the University, the community understands the importance of education and has worked hard to break down barriers to study and create pathways to local jobs,” Professor Black said.
“We are the University of Tasmania and for Tasmania, which is why it is so important, and so rewarding, to work to support communities like the West Coast to realise their ambitions for education.”
The West Coast Study Hub was the only facility to be announced for Tasmania and is one of 16 being funded across the nation.
It is the result of a successful application submitted by West Coast Heritage with the support of West Coast Council, the University and regional representatives.
During his address at the opening, West Coast Mayor and Executive Manager of the West Coast Heritage Centre Phil Vickers acknowledged the support of other Tasmanian education providers, State Government, the community and industry.
“To get here, to this stage of the Study Hub project has been a journey. When only 4.6% of our youth go on to further learning it’s important that we have the facilities on the West Coast to deliver accessible and innovative education to the region,” Mayor Vickers said.
“I’ve got nearly 27 years in local government now and I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a process where everybody was on the same page. It’s been a great result.”
Study Hub Manager Nicky Bolt said the facility was already supporting 17 students from across the region in furthering their learning.
“It’s a really big deal for the West Coast students in their education journey and allows learners to stay and study in their community without having to leave their families. The importance of this for our community cannot be emphasised enough.”
Alex Caville, a Teacher Aide at Strahan Primary, is one student already benefiting from the Hub.
Its establishment was a major factor in cementing her decision to return to study and pursue a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood).
“I wanted to be able to do more in my classroom and have more responsibility,” Alex said.
“I thought seriously about pursuing my passion and enrolling at UTAS, but having been out of formal education for some time and being quite isolated on the West Coast, I didn’t have the confidence to commit. That was until I learnt about the Study Hub.
“I believe that the hub is a fantastic addition to our beautiful underrated part of the State. It encourages people of all stages of life to not only improve their skillset and learn something new, but it allows people like me who have an absolute love of this region to stay with their families and further their education.
“As we all know Education is power, and giving people the opportunity to harness this power will be extremely beneficial to the West Coast. It encourages the next generation to want to stay, trade and reinvest their newly developed skills to the area.
“It gives people a second chance at pursuing their educational dreams, raising home-grown, educated community members who are passionate about leaving their mark on the West Coast.
“The study hub is an essential part of what will be an exciting new chapter in the West Coast’s history and I am privileged to be a part of it.”
To date, other outcomes stemming from the West Coast Education Project include the appointment of a staff member based in the region, the introduction of the Children’s University at five West Coast schools, the establishment of an Alumni and Friends Network and a West Coast-specific leadership program.
Pictured from left; Study Hub students Justine Gleeson, Jess Bonner and Alex Caville.