Senate inquiry to examine inequity across the regions

Tessa Randello

Federal government representatives were in Traralgon last week to hear evidence at an Australian Senate Inquiry about inequity in regional Australia.

The public hearing by the Economics Reference Committee was held on Thursday and included submissions from the Latrobe City Council and Gippsland Primary Health Network, among others.

Education and training were pointed to as issues at the forefront of discussions about job shortages in the region.

Latrobe City Council mayor Dan Clancey said training workers in the Latrobe Valley was an important part of the solution.

“There’s this cyclic system of education, research and employment and we think that’s an important cycle for the future for this area,” Mr Clancey said.

He also said there were opportunities for locally-trained students and skilled workers in the Valley.

“Pathways for local students to study here and stay here is a real concentration of the TAFE sector and the university sector,” Mr Clancey said.

“What we’d like to see a little bit more of is that commitment to stay in the region afterwards, so people don’t come here for their three-year course and head off afterwards because we have job shortages in the area, especially in the health sector.”

Mr Clancey highlighted the coal to hydrogen project as an opportunity to keep skilled locals in Latrobe Valley.

He said the region must grow economically in order to address job shortages and pointed to the decentralisation of government offices as a factor which could encourage the growth.

“I think there are more opportunities for us to be working with the state and federal government[s] … certainly for regional policy offices to have a place in the area,” Mr Clancey said.

Latrobe City Council’s other representative, chief executive Steven Piasente, mentioned the need for transport upgrades so that international students studying in Churchill could feel more at home.

“One of the things that I’ve heard recently, and its only anecdotally, is that we do get initial enrollments in terms of international students then they realise they are a bit remote from our other CBDs and they feel a bit isolated,” Mr Piasente said.

Gippsland Primary Health Network deputy chair Julie Rogalsky said training medical students in the area was important for employing and keeping doctors in the Valley.

“If you can start selecting doctors who grew up locally, did the majority of their training locally, immerse them and mentor them locally then they are more likely to stay in the area,” she said.

Ms Rogalsky also suggested changes to Medicare could help address issues with the health system in rural and regional communities.