Grievance Parliament


Wednesday, 1 May 2024                                                                                         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY


The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Stuart) (15:22): Today, I want to talk about the recent Uni Hub Spencer Gulf graduation event. On 15 February 2024, the Uni Hub Upper Spencer Gulf celebrated 17 graduates from Port Pirie, Port Augusta and the Copper Coast who recently completed their university studies across the fields of nursing, teaching, social work, accounting, and physiological science. All graduates—100 per cent of them—have gained employment in their new profession in their local communities, with the majority taking up roles in the South Australian Public Service, particularly in our regional hospitals and schools.

Uni Hub Spencer Gulf partners with universities that are willing to work with the region and local employers to help grow their own skilled and professional workforce. Current university partners include Central Queensland University, Flinders University, University of Adelaide, University of Southern Queensland, and University of New England. Each of Uni Hub’s university partners brings a different set of strengths, and that is where the opportunities are focused in the context of developing the region’s professional and skilled workforce.

Undergraduate and postgraduate courses currently on offer through Uni Hub, particularly their partners, include nursing, teaching, allied health, paramedics, science, social work, engineering, project management, law, IT, early childhood education, urban planning, and surveying. Uni Hub Spencer Gulf is a local not-for-profit organisation managed by a board comprising industry and community leaders from right across the region who are passionate about providing country communities with the opportunity to study at university and pursue a professional career in their own hometown without leaving to go to Adelaide.

It was the foresight of the Upper Spencer Gulf community leaders who, more than a decade ago, recognised that access to locally delivered industry-related tertiary education was going to be crucial to the future workforce and economic sustainability of the Spencer Gulf region. Financial contributions from university partners enable Uni Hub to provide local face-to-face academic tutoring, industry connection and pastoral care that supplements the online university study and supports students every step of the way—from enrolment, to graduation and into a professional career. Uni Hub Spencer Gulf relies heavily on partnerships, collaboration, and local support for its success. Each study centre is supported by the local council and local businesses. Employers and community groups provide a range of financial and in-kind support.

Uni Hub opened its doors in 2019 with one study centre and 14 students. Five years later, Uni Hub is now supporting over 300 students with their university studies across five locations. The majority of students are first in the family to attend a university and the majority of students report they would not otherwise have considered university as an option had it not been for the local support provided by the organisation.

Uni Hub is also working very closely with 40 secondary schools across the Mid North, the Far North, Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula to raise aspiration to higher education and to showcase the huge range of professional and technical careers available right here in our own backyard and through Uni Hub the local study pathways into these careers.

The Regional Australia Institute reports that job vacancies in regions are growing at three times the rate of that in metropolitan areas. This means that the workforce challenge for our communities is only going to increase in every sector. As the competition for skilled workers intensifies right across the nation, more and more employers are investing in growing their own local workforce.

Uni Hub is currently supporting over 120 nursing and allied health students in the region through partner universities, with numbers continuing to grow, with students living right across the region including Port Pirie, Orroroo, Clare, Yorke Peninsula, Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, Roxby Downs, Quorn, Coober Pedy, and Ceduna. A breakdown of the current students by discipline is as follows: 102 Bachelor of Nursing, nine Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing and 11 Bachelor of Allied Health. In addition, they also support 15 University of Adelaide Bachelor of Medicine students every year when they come out into the regions.

Since Uni Hub commenced in 2019, 100 per cent of the graduate registered nurses have taken up roles in our regional health services. The above success stories are why I have lobbied the Premier, the Treasurer and also the Minister for Health to have the clinical simulation lab in Port Pirie. This lab would be used by universities, residential schools, and training centres across various universities, particularly focusing on nursing, allied health, and medicine. The facility would also be utilised for in-house professional development and upskilling of existing hospital, health, and medical staff, including access by neighbouring Far North facilities.

I would hope that in the budget this year the Premier, the Treasurer and also the Minister for Health take heed of my requests.