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Tuesday, 30 November 1999
Page: 11109

Senator PAYNE (7:20 PM) —There are several matters I wish to raise this evening in relation to what I regard as one of the most significant regions in my state of New South Wales, Greater Western Sydney. I am fortunate to be based in this particularly exciting, distinctive and progressive region. I have spoken in the chamber on a number of occasions about this part of Sydney and its people. It is now worth taking stock of some of the achievements and events of recent months and to place them on the record also.

In reflecting on those achievements and challenges, it is worth while mentioning in some detail the significance of the Greater West as a leading region. For example, the Greater West is enjoying a population boom which is in defiance of current trends, with a population growth rate eight times higher than the national average. The region's tourism market is larger than the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley. Ninety per cent of all food produced in Sydney is grown in the Greater Western Sydney region. It has an economy larger than all of South Australia's.

The Greater Western Sydney work force is one of the most productive in the nation, with more than half holding post-secondary qualifications. In relation to language skills, one in every three residents speaks a language other than English. The region has just cause to describe itself as an economic powerhouse in Australia, with more than $35 billion generated by its 1.5 million residents last year.

Currently, manufacturing is the flagship industry of the Greater West, followed closely by its traditional bases of agriculture, as I have mentioned, some mining and construction. I was pleased recently to be able to congratulate and promote through the local media the achievements of a Chester Hill based manufacturing firm—also actively congratulated by our Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile—TNA Australia Pty Ltd, one of 60 companies across the nation selected to contest the 1999 Australian Export Awards. The firm's ingenuity and adaptability were recognised as role model material for other Australian firms. They reflect a global outlook that is prevalent across all of the Greater West of Sydney.

But the area is not purely defined through its economic and industrial outlook. Western Sydney has a significant community spirit, which is at least in part shaped through the active community engagement of the leading educational facilities throughout the region. I have developed a positive relationship with many of these institutions, and I want to just touch briefly on some of these facilities.

In the past I have particularly praised the ongoing success of the University of Western Sydney. I have discussed its uniqueness. It is an excellent educational facility, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. Founded in 1989 through the amalgamation of existing colleges, it has just gone from strength to strength in recent years. Even in the relatively short period in which I have been involved with the institution it has gathered momentum as a serious and esteemed higher education facility.

Indeed, as part of its process of ongoing development, the university has engaged in consultations, discussions and project work over recent times, from which have emerged four main challenges for the future development of the institution. They include the need to seize strategic competitive opportunities and to develop a united UWS image and direction. This actual process of review demonstrates that UWS approaches its role in the community very seriously, both in regard to its role in Western Sydney and its position as a member of the higher education community across the country. I have touched previously on some of the industry links the university has developed in Western Sydney and the success of some of their particularly innovative programs, which seek to build links between the community and the institution.

It is a uniquely placed university, able to provide an educational experience to residents of Western Sydney who otherwise may not have ever accessed tertiary education. The commitment of the university—from its Vice Chancellor, Professor Jan Reid, to its faculties and staff—is enormous. It takes very seriously its role as a member of the broader community of educational facilities across the country. While it is not one of the country's longest established institutions—while it is not a sandstone university—it is fast catching up to some of the older universities in terms of excellence.

Of course, it is not only the UWS which is achieving great success for the Greater West in educational terms and seeking to meet some of the unique challenges faced within the region. The Western Sydney Institute of TAFE is also taking an innovative approach in a number of areas. For example, as we get even closer to the next millennium—inexorably so—it is expected that IT and tourism will join manufacturing as the driving forces in the Greater West, generating additional economic output of about $1 billion a year for the next three years.

The Greater West has been ready to embrace the IT revolution, promoting state-of-the-art training and education through such institutions as UWS and also the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE. Perhaps not surprisingly, the region was selected as the pilot area for a new project which aims to help women re-skill for the IT driven work force through what is known as an international computer drivers licence course. This was launched last Friday, on Online Australia Day, at the Mount Druitt campus of the TAFE, partnered by the National Office of the Information Economy, the Australian Computer Society and the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE. I am particularly honoured to be the official patron of the project.

It is a program which I will be able to discuss in more detail as it progresses, but its anticipated success is demonstrated by the overwhelming response from women in Western Sydney when the program was first advertised. From a single advertisement placed in suburban newspapers, over 50 women have registered a desire to participate. I think this bodes very well for the success of the program and the capacity of Western Sydney to embrace new opportunities offered in the area of information technology. I spoke to some of those women at the launch last Friday. One in particular, whom I would not like to verbal by guessing her age, had a husband in the work force full time—who she was terrified would overtake her in terms of IT skills—a four-year-old and a two-year-old. The next thing she could see was the four-year-old perhaps overtaking her in terms of IT skills. The opportunity to participate in the international computer drivers licence course was one that she was very enthusiastic about. It has been taken up with enormous alacrity across Europe, and I hope it is just as successful here.

We have other educational facilities across the Western Sydney region which meet the challenges of different needs. I want to refer briefly to two of those. I recently visited the new Broderick Gillawarna School in Revesby, which excels at providing education for specially challenged students. It is a relocated school, joining two previously existing schools, occupying a site adjacent to the Revesby State Public School. They share resources and jointly benefit from fundraising initiatives.

The Broderick Gillawarna School now caters for 60 incredibly challenged children with disabilities, giving them independent living skills and the confidence to lead quality lives. It gives older students the opportunity to work in real work sites and also coordinates integration programs with other local schools. I know that one of their older students is, in fact, doing work experience in the office of a state member in New South Wales. She has found that to be an enormously beneficial experience in terms of independent living and confidence.

The opening of the amalgamated school was a particularly inspiring occasion. It included a visit by Paralympic wheelchair basketball hero Troy Sacks, who visited and encouraged the children. In the company of well-known Canterbury Bulldogs Terry Lamb and Darren Griffiths it was almost hard to attract the children's attention to anything else. They are real role models for these kids, who are determined to make the most of what the education system can offer them and to make the most of what their parents and families are so committed to helping them with.

Since commencing my work in Western Sydney I have had the opportunity to develop a very close rapport with Westfields Sports High School. Few Australian sports fans would not be disappointed for the national under-17s soccer team, the Joeys, who took Australia to its first final of a FIFA competition last weekend in the World Championships in New Zealand against Brazil only to go down closely in a penalty shoot-out, but not many would be aware that Westfields Sports High School in Western Sydney has played an extraordinary role in developing some of that talent.

In fact, four Westfields players were recently invited to join the Australian Joeys squad. I think the school was, collectively, on the edge of its seat last weekend. In its soccer program alone, Westfields boasts the development of the youngest ever Socceroo, Harry Kewell. In addition, the school has produced the youngest ever Matilda, four players in the current Olyroo squad, seven players on professional contracts with international clubs across Europe and numerous other National Soccer League players, trophies, victories and representatives. And that is just the soccer program.

The students also excel in any number of other sports, including gymnastics, tennis, cricket, basketball and rugby league, and they are incredible achievers in off-the-field pursuits as well. They now have their own sports medicine clinic to provide immediate facilities to their students so that they can study, and they also have a very good academic record of which principal Phil Tucker is very proud. They continue to look for ways to develop both in sporting and academic pursuits, and they excel. They are an extraordinary example of what young people in New South Wales, but most particularly in Greater Western Sydney, are achieving. They are clearly recognised internationally as an excellent school, and the fact that that school finds its home in the Greater West is a great credit to the school's administrators and the community.