Former NSW Nationals Senator Fiona Nash has been appointed Australia’s first Regional Education Commissioner.
Ms Nash has been appointed for an initial three year term, and will report annually on the progress of implementing the recommendations of the Napthine Review, as well as provide advice on regional education policy issues.
The Napthine Review was announced in November 2018, as part of a federal government move to develop a national Regional, Rural and Remote Education strategy.
Ms Nash was elected to the Senate in 2004, and re-elected in 2010 and 2016.
She held a number of ministerial portfolios including Rural Health, Regional Development, and Regional Communications.
Since 2018, Ms Nash has been the Strategic Advisor, Regional Engagement and Government Relations at Charles Sturt University, and was a Director of the NSW Skills Board in 2021.
Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education, Senate Bridget McKenzie, congratulated Ms Nash on her appointment.
“Fiona has a deep love for regional Australia and a strong understanding of the education sector, and I know she will advocate fiercely on behalf of students who live and study in these areas,” Senator McKenzie said.
“I know Fiona is committed to implementing the recommendations from the Napthine Review, and will work to reduce the disparity between city and country students, particularly in relation to education participation and attainment.
“The role of the Commissioner will bring a national focus and direction for regional and remote education and champion the educational needs of students in regional communities. This will include advocating for the improvement of education policies spanning early childhood education and care, schools, and tertiary education to better support regional, rural and remote students.”
Ms Nash said she welcomed the opportunity to work with governments at all levels as well as peak education organisations and regional and remote communities to improve educational outcomes for students.
“The Napthine Review identified country Australians are less than half as likely to obtain a university degree by the age of 35, compared to those in our cities,” Ms Nash said.
“There are many factors that contribute to this gap, and I welcome the opportunity to work to ensure every Australian has the option to access and benefit from a high-quality education, regardless of where they live.”
The NSW Nationals in the federal government have committed $6 million over four years to establish the role and to undertake a range of projects to significantly improve regional education outcomes by 2030.