Debates over the educational needs of the Riverina and how they are best met have a long history.
The Riverine University League (1925-1981) was backed by local councils and led by Dr William Merrylees, a strong advocate for the establishment of a regional university.
The league's lobbying helped persuade the NSW government to establish the Riverina College of Advanced Education at Wagga to serve the needs of the region.
The most significant achievement of RCAE has been to provide Wagga Wagga and beyond with a ready supply of skilled professionals including teachers, nurses, accountants and agriculturalists.
Many of those students came from and were subsequently employed in the region.
The Charles Sturt University Act 1989 endorsed this regional focus and included the clause: "... its object: the provision of facilities for education and research of university standard having particular regard to the needs and aspirations of the residents of western and south-western New South Wales."
The renewed regional focus, announced by CSU in 2021, maintains the earlier commitments to the region.
'Grow your own' is an effective strategy for developing workforce capacity in regional Australia.
It assumes that students who are from and study in a region are more likely to be employed there.
The grow your own strategy should always be considered when planning to meet local needs in rural and regional Australia where shortcomings in areas such as education, employment and health have to be addressed.
A study by McGrail and O'Sullivan (2021) provided empirical evidence to show that a grow your own strategy works nationally.
This study involved researchers from the Rural Clinical Schools of the University of Queensland at Rockhampton and Toowoomba.
It explored whether 6627 doctors working in rural locations entered medicine from that region and/or trained in the same region, compared with those without these connections to the region.
If the full potential of the grow your own strategy is to be realised, it would be essential that the offerings at Albury and Wagga Wagga are complementary and allow students from the region access to the full range of CSU courses.
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My favourite sentence at the moment is from Pseudoxia Epidemica (roughly, "On the epidemic of false beliefs", circa 1646) by Sir Thomas Browne.
Pooh-poohing one superstition he explains "the common foretelling of strangers from the fungous parcels about the wicks of candles; which only signifieth a moist and pluvious air about them, hindering the avolation of the light and favillous particles; whereupon they are forced to settle upon the snast".
I'm not sure it will now become everyone's favourite nugget of knowledge or cause a rush on candle sales, but the truly remarkable thing is that Browne's meaning has the clarity of purest crystal in comparison to any Pope cartoon ever published in The Daily Advertiser.
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