10 May 2023

Why a university hub will be brilliant for Cooktown

| Matt Nicholls
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Duncan Taylor from Country Universities Centre, Cook Shire deputy mayor Robyn Holmes, CUC director Chris Ronan and Cook Shire’s Lawrence Booth.

DUNCAN Taylor can’t wait for the Cooktown university hub to open and for local people to realise its potential.

The voluntary CEO of Country Universities Centre was in the Far North last month to get a feel for Cooktown and the surrounding communities and how the new hub will benefit local residents.

“I really loved it. I think the people of Cooktown are going to rally behind it,” Mr Taylor said.

“There is no vocational education presence in town.

“People have to leave the community to take their studies further.”

Mr Taylor said there were many challenges that regional Australians faced that were different to their city counterparts and having a university hub in Cooktown would help the local community.

“A lot of people are unwilling to leave or are forced to leave because they don’t have the connectivity they get elsewhere,” he said.

“This way we get to keep people who would otherwise have moved away or who otherwise would have never joined up in the first place.”

The university hub has been marked for the arcade next to the pharmacy and adjacent to the newsagency in Charlotte Street.

“We deliberately wanted the centre to be in the main street,” Mr Taylor said.

“Not only is it visible but people can see students come and go. The old saying goes: ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and I think that is relevant here.”

Mr Taylor praised Cook Shire Council for its support of the hub.

“Having the council on board has made the process a lot easier and credit must go to Cook Shire for being so supportive,” he said.

“I know the mayor and the councillors are keen to see the centre succeed and the staff have been exceptional.”

Cook Shire councillors gave director Lawrence Booth a round of applause at their May monthly meeting for his work in getting the hub off the ground.

“I believe Lawrence did a lot of the work in not a lot of time when it came to the grant application,” said deputy mayor Robyn Holmes, who chaired the meeting.

“It’s going to be a great asset for Cooktown.”

Mr Taylor said university centres had worked in regional towns in New South Wales, Victoria and southern Queensland.

Cooktown will be the most northern centre in the network.

“This hub will be about wrapping support around those who are doing further studies and networking them with all the universities in the country,” he said.

“Last year we had 900 different degrees go through our centres.”

Locals who wander into the hub later this year – likely from October – will find a fitted-out facility with full-time staff who are trained to help people both with their studies and finding suitable courses.

“It will have great connectivity and our people will be able to provide support and guidance,” Mr Taylor said.

“The centre is also planning to have a specific Indigenous support worker, too.

“This is not just for teenagers and school-leavers, it could be for people who want to shift their career or enhance their skills.

“Around 20 to 25 per cent of the centre’s students are postgraduate.”

Funding for the Cooktown university hub comes from the federal government’s Regional University Centres program.

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