Increase investment in community education to tackle disadvantage and unemployment in rural Australia

March 3, 2017

Community Colleges Australia issued the following press release in late February – reproduced below.


Australian governments should increase investment in community education to address higher levels of disadvantage and unemployment in rural and regional Australia, according to a new report from Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

The report, The Role of Community Education in Australian Regional and Rural Economic Development, finds that not-for-profit community-based vocational education and training (VET) providers play a disproportionately large role in rural and regional Australia, educating at least 10% of VET students in New South Wales and 20% in Victoria.  This makes community providers a significant national force in providing skills to non-metropolitan Australia.

Participation rates in VET courses are 50% higher in rural and regional Australia than in metropolitan areas. A much larger percentage of rural and regional VET learners also study lower level qualifications: Certificate III and below – just those qualifications that community education providers excel in, with their focus on vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.

“This report shows how community education is crucial in providing skills and in driving economic development in rural and regional Australia, and includes numerous examples of ‘bottom-up’ innovative community-based approaches. Community education providers are uniquely positioned to act as ‘passing gear’ vehicles, accelerating new ideas and helping our regions to prosper,” said Dr Don Perlgut, Chief Executive Officer of CCA.

“Yet governments have not been investing enough in community education, particularly in high need, disadvantaged rural and regional areas where youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. We have not seen any national infrastructure investment in community education since 2009 – it’s now 2017. On top of this, Australia lacks a coherent national statement on the role of community education in VET. This policy vacuum makes it difficult for community providers to operate effectively,” said Dr Perlgut.

“CCA looks forward to working collaboratively with the Australian, state and territory governments to fix these issues, and to utilise the capacity that community VET providers have to meet pressing rural and regional skills needs,” said Dr Perlgut.

The report makes a number of key recommendations, including that the Commonwealth, state and territory governments should:

  • Boost funding for community education, including providing more support for infrastructure, professional development and staff training, pilot funding programs, and community service obligation activities.
  • Utilise regional and rural community education providers to engage with vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians, particularly young people.
  • Develop a coordinated national-state-territory policy statement on the value and place of community and adult education.
  • Examine VET funding programs to ensure community providers are not disadvantaged by unnecessary regulations.
  • Collect and publish annual data on regional and rural student outcomes and provider comparisons.

The full report The Role of Community Education in Australian Regional and Rural Economic Development is available here on Community Colleges Australia’s website.


(image below: logging truck driving through Armidale NSW)



Bowral’s Empire Cinema

January 1, 2013

Film-going in Australia from December 26 (Boxing Day) happens like a gun going off at the start of a race:  all of a sudden everyone goes.  This year, reportedly cinema admissions in Australia were up three percent on the previous Boxing Day:  good news for film distributors and for the cinemas.

I celebrated Boxing Day by going to see Les Miserables at Bowral’s Empire Cinema.  If you don’t know Bowral, it’s a country town about 100 kilometers southwest of Sydney on the way to Canberra in the NSW “Southern Highlands”.  Bowral is, by all accounts, a “classy” town – lots of wealthy people, nice shops.  And the Empire Cinema is a real survivor.

Every session of Les Miserables was sold out at the Empire Cinema that day.  Empire is a four-plex, and the cinema we were in held about 150 people, the second largest (I believe):  I suspect The Hobbit grabbed the largest cinema.

Empire has been operating pretty much continuously since the 1920s.  As the historical sign (see below) indicates, it showed its first “talkie” on 15 October 1930.  The film The Jazz Singer (the original with Al Jolson) is pretty much recognised to be the first talkie, and opened in the USA in October 1927, then had its Australia premiere in December 1928.  In other words, The Jazz Singer took fourteen months to make it from the USA to Australia … and then appeared to take another 22 months (almost two years) to make it the 100 kilometers down to Bowral.  Part of it was the sound equipment, of course.   But still, that does mean that The Jazz Singer kept playing in Australian cinemas for two years or more.  A big difference from the “fast in, fast out” cinema releases we see these days.

As for Les Miserables, very enjoyable.  Hugh Jackman does a great job, although I don’t see his getting the Oscar this year (nominated, probably, but not winning).  Anne Hathaway has a much better chance and surely it was a “supporting” role.  Fabulous fun provided by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, in slapstick style roles.  The oddest thing about the film:  it is supposedly set in France, but feels like it was really set in the East End of London.  Purposeful to be certain, but I must check to see if the original stage musical also presented that way.

Empire Cinema Bowral History Dec2012