Former Member for the rural Victorian seat of Indi, Ms Cathy McGowan AO, was recognised as Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow for La Trobe University.
Ms McGowan said lifting the rates of higher education attainment in rural and regional communities should be one of the nation’s top priorities.
“Our regional towns and cities are crying out for more degree-qualified professionals in a whole range of industries – including healthcare, education, planning and engineering,” Ms McGowan said.
“One of the best ways to strengthen the rural workforce is to support more regional students into university – which, as Victoria’s biggest provider of regional higher education, La Trobe University does very well.”
People living in capital cities are almost twice as likely as those in regional areas to hold a Bachelor Degree or higher.
“I will work with La Trobe, and communities across Victoria, to lift the aspirations of regional school-leavers, and hopefully remove barriers they face when considering further study,” Ms McGowan said.
La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said Ms McGowan was an ideal candidate for a Fellowship.
“Cathy is deeply committed to rural and regional communities, having spent years campaigning in Federal Parliament on their behalf,” Professor Dewar said.
“She intimately understands the barriers facing regional school-leavers, such as housing and travel costs, or not having family and friends with university experience.”
Professor Dewar said access to higher education shouldn’t depend on where you grew up, or what your parents do.
“La Trobe is dedicated to improving access to university for rural and regional students, which is why I’m particularly delighted to welcome Cathy and her shared commitment to regional education,” Professor Dewar said.
Dr Guinever Threlkeld, La Trobe’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Regional), said low rates of university participation have been a long-standing issue in regional Victoria.
“Many students living outside of metropolitan Melbourne aren’t reaching their full potential, which has a flow-on effect to their communities,” Dr Threlkeld said.
“We hope that Cathy’s public profile and deep commitment to regional education – which started years ago in her former life as a teacher – will help us make real progress on the issue.”
As part of the Fellowship Ms McGowan will participate in University events and advise the University on higher education delivery in the regions.