Having directed hundreds of high school students to Deakin’s Warrnambool campus as a careers advisor, Labor candidate for Wannon Michael Barling is ready to fight to keep it.
“This university campus is critical for Warrnambool,” he said.
Mr Barling has worked in education for 20 years – 18 of those at Emmanuel College where he spent seven years as a careers advisor.
He said each year between 25 to 40 per cent of students would have gone on to study at the Warrnambool campus.
That equates to about 500 students.
Mr Barling said the campus was deeply embedded in Warrnambool and its workforce.
“If you visited the hospital or an accountancy firm in Warrnambool, you would find Deakin graduates everywhere,” he said.
He said the primary school just down the road from his home had about 12 teachers, 10 who graduated from the Warrnambool campus.
Mr Barling now works with Brauer and Warrnambool Colleges on a wellbeing project called A Big Life which links in with the Beyond the Bell program which aims to lift year 12 retention rates which is about 60 per cent.
“Deakin has been a real saviour for many people down here,” he said.
He said the median income across the south-west was about $40,000, and that’s why many families find it hard to send their children to university.
He said Deakin University had also provided options for adults to return to university to study.
At 27, Mr Barling studied teaching at Deakin’s Warrnambool campus.
He’d finished high school at year 11 and spent 10 years in the workforce before entering tertiary education. One of his sons has also studied in Warrnambool.
“Without that opportunity to go to Warrnambool Deakin I wouldn’t have had a 20-year teaching career,” he said. “We’ve become the poor country cousins.”
He said that’s why he and Labor Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jalaa Pulford are taking a united approach and will attend Friday’s public meeting at the Lighthouse Theatre which was called by Liberal member for Wannon Dan Tehan.
He said Ms Pulford had already planned to be in Warrnambool for a local ALP Branch function, which has been cancelled to allow both to attend the public rally.
Deakin has been a real saviour for many people down here.Michael Barling