Federal Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Sharon Bird, will launch major components of the La Trobe Rural Health School at the University’s Bendigo Campus tomorrow.
The school building is the $17.6 million base for the school’s health and human services teaching and research at Bendigo. Activities there will also extend into La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga, Mildura and Shepparton campuses. A new $17.7 million Hillside Apartments 200 bed student accommodation compIex and the $4.6 million Nancy Long Dining Hall was also officially opened by the Minister.
La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the launch was a symbolic step forward and a signal of renewed intensity for the University in Bendigo.
‘These facilities are central to our commitment to train the next generation of health professionals for the Bendigo region and, just as importantly, for other parts of regional Australia,’ Professor Dewar said.
‘We already know that students who train in rural and regional facilities like La Trobe’s Rural Health School are far more likely to remain in practice in a rural location. In fact up to 80 per cent of regionally-trained health professionals tend to practice outside capital cities.
‘So right here in Bendigo a whole range of health professions - nursing, midwifery, dentistry, oral health, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, speech pathology, paramedics, social work and public health – will come together to build strong inter-professional practices.
‘These facilities are proof of La Trobe University’s commitment to building healthy communities in partnership with regional Victoria.'
Minister for Higher Education and Skills Sharon Bird said she was looking forward to touring the new facilities.
‘The Rural Health School is an excellent example of an infrastructure project which will offer long term benefits to regional Australia. The investment here will be returned ten-fold: through more students, more health professionals and ultimately better health for regional Australians,’ Minister Bird said.
Professor Dewar said the relationship with Bendigo was important to La Trobe University. ‘We want to be a big part of the city’s future, helping to establish Bendigo as a major regional university city with an international reputation,' he said.
‘Through significant partnerships with local organisations such as Bendigo Health, Bendigo Community Health and many smaller health services in north, central and west Victoria our students have access to excellent practical training as part of their studies.
‘In return, La Trobe students make a vital contribution to the life and vibrancy of rural communities. As qualified professionals they will help make health and social care more accessible for all Victorians as well as contributing socially and economically,’ he said.
Head of La Trobe Rural Health School and Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Jane Farmer, said she was delighted to see the project come to fruition.
‘In 2009, La Trobe staff worked night and day to produce the funding application that enabled this creative project to go ahead. Today I want to acknowledge the dedication of the local team and community partners, including Monash University, in assisting this great project become a reality,’ Professor Farmer said.
‘It’s wonderful that we now have possibly the best and most up to date health education facilities in Victoria, right here in Bendigo – allowing access to open, collaborative and stimulating learning.
‘In 2010 when I arrived here there were around 600 health and social work students at La Trobe Bendigo. Now there are just over 2300.
‘This is a fantastic beginning and it is only going to get better. We have plans to extend our course offerings, innovate with our teaching and build on our research to improve the health of regional Victorians. Crucially, it will be in partnership with health and human services providers, and community members themselves.
‘We are already developing research projects and this coupled with our excellent teaching and learning facilities, means we can look forward to continuing to build mutually-rewarding benefits for communities, health services, La Trobe, Bendigo and rural Victoria.’
The majority of the funding for the project has come from the Australian Government’s Education Investment Fund ($59 million). The University invested $11.2 million of its own funds.
Other components of the $75.9 million project include a clinical teaching building and a dental chairs facility at the Bendigo Health Campus, upgraded anatomy and physiology facilities, and 86 student residential accommodation beds in regional Victoria.