The Vice-Chancellor of the University of New England, Professor Jim Barber, joined the Federal Member for New England, Mr Tony Windsor, on campus on Monday and undertook tours of the work under way around the University as part of the initial phase of the National Broadband Network roll-out.
The Vice-Chancellor and Mr Windsor were on site with UNE’s Infrastructure Manager, Brian Munro, and the Construction Manager for the NBN project Armidale, Mr Peter Meyers, to receive an update on the project’s status. Works currently include placing directional bores under roadways, installing cable and joint housing pits, and installing FDH cabinets for distribution of fibre-optic cable to the local area.
“It’s pretty remarkable how little focus has been placed on the tremendous benefits that such an initiative as the NBN will deliver Australia-wide,” Mr Windsor said.
Professor Barber agreed that more emphasis should be placed on the delivery and long-term prospects offered by the NBN rather than on the short-term bean counting.
“There needs to be more dialogue surrounding the immense opportunities this infrastructure presents, and to communicate the huge benefits clearly to the wider community,” Professor Barber said. “I appreciate Mr Windsor’s advocacy on this issue. It shows great foresight into the needs of regional and rural Australia.”
He said that having such a strong advocate for the NBN was integral to its success, as this was the most significant opportunity for regional Australia and the University of New England.
“From a Higher Education perspective,” Professor Barber said, “the NBN will provide all Universities with an equitable platform to deliver to our students a diverse, flexible and accessible education system – whether they choose to study on campus, from their lounge room on the other side of the world, or in the middle of a paddock 100 kilometres from their nearest neighbour.
“With this technology, our Rural Medical students could effectively take part in clinical pracs with their lecturers at UNE, in conjunction with a real-time video stream of procedures being undertaken remotely by leading surgeons in any particular field. Think of the tremendous inroads that we can make in addressing our regional and rural health challenges. And that’s just a single example of the endless possibilities.”
Both men supported the prospect of enhanced equity in the delivery of vital services such as health, education, and information access for outer metropolitan, regional and rural centres.
“From the outset, the NBN will streamline service delivery across metropolitan and regional and rural communities,” Professor Barber said. “Everything and everyone benefits. Why shouldn’t we be striving for this kind of equity?”
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Professor Barber (right) and Brian Munro during the inspection on Monday. Clicking on this image reveals another photograph of the inspection tour showing (from left) Peter Meyers, Tony Windsor, Professor Barber and Brian Munro.