By NSW Nationals Leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro

There is no more important duty for all of us than ensuring the next generation have better opportunities than we did. And I cannot stress enough how important it is we do not lose the young people from our regional towns. If these kids go, it is the greatest threat regional towns face. An entire generation will leave, and once they are gone, it is so difficult for them to return.

That’s why I have backed the Country University Centres (CUCs). These centres provide access to higher education for hundreds of students. Everyone has a right to education. Living in regional NSW should not be a compromise and must not come at the expense of quality education and career opportunities.

What are CUCs?

The Country Universities Centre model is not-for-profit and are a huge asset to this state. They are keeping our kids in our regional towns, working and studying and having the opportunity to stay local with family and friends. Gaining a local qualification can help meet the local demand for skilled workers, which in turn will encourage economic growth and creation of new jobs in the region.

Duncan Taylor had been the driving force of the original CUC in Cooma, and sat on the CUC Board. He is a long-standing proponent of education access and equity, particularly in our regions. There has been much said in the media in relation to his involvement with CUC’s and government funding as he is married to Bronnie Taylor – NSW Minister for mental health, regional youth and women. It’s important that people know all of Duncan Taylor’s services were provided on a voluntary basis. In fact, performing the role of CEO has come at personal cost, including time away from his farm and the cost of hiring a staff member to replace him.

I too have been an advocate for expanding the Country University Centre model, given how successful it has been in my area, the Monaro. Isn’t it fantastic that five NSW Government-supported Centres already open are helping over 400 students complete their tertiary studies across a wide variety of degrees, including health, education, social work and community services, technology, agriculture and tourism.

Isn’t it inspiring that 46 per cent of our students are the first members of their family to study a university degree? Isn’t it fantastic that the Far West CUC in Broken Hill has enrolled 190 students, 300 per cent more than its initial target?

Broad support

Even Federal Labor’s Tanya Plibersek supports the model, announcing in February that Labor would deliver tertiary mentoring and tutorials through 22 regional study hubs. Six of these hubs are our very own CUCs, with potentially more to come.

Last month I opened three new CUCs – Clarence Valley, Narrabri and Moree, and this month I am opening the Griffith and Leeton centres. These centres give students a university environment by providing access to video conferencing facilities, meeting rooms and high speed internet, as well as staff who provide face-to-face academic advice and professional support. This is why we are investing in this great model, it changes lives by opening up new opportunities where none may have existed before.

For more information about Country Universities Centres click here.