Mayors’ Roundtable provides regional opportunities

Published 09 July 2009

mayorsTwenty-five local government council representatives from the New England North West region visited the University of New England today for talks aimed at enhancing the University’s engagement with the region.

At the invitation of UNE’s Chancellor, Richard Torbay, the Mayors and General Managers of 13 councils travelled to UNE for today’s talks. They represented Armidale Dumaresq, Tamworth, Uralla, Glen Innes Severn, Guyra, Gunnedah, Gwydir, Inverell, Liverpool Plains, Walcha, Moree Plains, Narrabri and Tenterfield Councils.

“Historically, UNE has always identified with its local region,” Dr Torbay said. “Our communities feel very strong ties to what they quite rightly regard as their University and are vitally interested in its growth and the opportunities it offers.

“We draw a large proportion of our on-campus students from the surrounding area, we conduct many research programs that are strongly relevant to rural and regional issues, and we have long-standing partnerships with local government, local business and local communities.

“Bringing Mayors and General Managers to UNE for a day gave us a chance to update them on current research programs and activities and discuss possible future partnerships and issues of mutual interest.”

Dr Torbay said the Roundtable linked in well with UNE’s Rural Resurgence Initiative – a research initiative aimed at assisting rural people by tackling knowledge disadvantage in rural areas.

He  said there had been a number of positive outcomes from today’s local government gathering. “We all want to arrest the drift of young people to the big cities because they can’t get jobs in rural areas,” he said. “We want to attract people with expertise to fill the skills shortage, and we want to develop the skills of local people through schools, TAFE, and the University working together.”

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, said today’s  gathering  had been “exactly the type of regional engagement that can help raise an awareness of higher education and the expertise it can share with local communities”.

“We have people who are leaders in their fields prepared to offer what they can to assist regional development,” Professor Pettigrew said.

Memorandum of Understanding

The Armidale Dumaresq Mayor, Councillor Peter Ducat, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of his Council during the visit to UNE today.

Councillor Ducat said the MOU signified the beginnings of a new level of community engagement between the region’s two largest organisations. “There will be significant flow-on of benefits to all Council constituents,” he said.

UNE has already signed MOUs with Clarence Valley and Guyra Councils, and a similar agreement with Norfolk Island.

“It makes sense for rural and regional councils to interact as closely as possible with their regional university,” Dr Torbay said. “We have a history of engagement because of our community of interest, but this can be taken further as today’s enthusiastic discussions have proved.

“Working together we have an added strength to take a leadership role on issues such as health, education, the environment, sustainable development and delivery of services from a regional vantage point.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows (from left) the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, the Chancellor, Dr Richard Torbay, and the Mayor of Walcha, Councillor Bill Heazlett. Clicking on this image reveals a photograph of the local government representatives at UNE today.