While our Federal politicians wait on the results of last weekend's election and we speculate on the balance and distribution of power in a future government, some changes to local government boundaries have now been enacted.
On 1 July, Perth's CBD boundaries were more than doubled (from 8.10 km2 to over 19 km2) to incorporate several key landmarks including The University of Western Australia (UWA).
After 100 years, UWA has "returned" to where it first opened its doors, in Perth's Irwin Street in 1913 as WA's first university. Universities are vital economic, social and community assets that make significant contributions through education, research and commercial activities. Perth has five universities and our State is located in the same time zone as 60% of the world's population; positioning Perth as a University City, or UniverCity has economic, social and political advantages.
Contributions from universities
Universities have contributed to WA's economic success through research and development expertise and providing graduates of a world-class advanced education system. Universities also contribute to the progress of our state through international education. In Deloitte's report for the Australian Government, The Value of International Education to Australia 2015 (PDF), the ABS valued exports from international education at $18.8 billion, making it Australia's third largest export and its largest services export in 2014-15. Perth currently hosts 45,000 international students across all education sectors.
But the broader benefits of international education are not just economic, they also include increased entrepreneurship, knowledge exchange and international collaboration. Further, social benefits flow from improved cultural literacy, stronger cultural linkages and enhanced cultural capital. In an increasingly interconnected world, developing 'globally literate' and commercially responsive citizens is a focus of universities and an integral part of the higher education curriculum.
The new CBD boundary incorporates UWA as the western gateway to the city, Kings Park (which covers as large an area as New York's Central Park), Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre and the new Perth Children's Hospital join the city. Belmont Park Raceway and the new Perth Stadium are now part of the recreational precinct that opens the eastern gateway to the city.
Mark StickellsDirector, UWA Innovation Quarter
StudyPerth, the government-funded agency with the responsibility for promoting the State to international students, estimates that international education generates 10,000 jobs and contributes $1.3 billion per annum to the WA economy.
Reinforcing the importance of universities to our State, the proposed rail link to connect two of Western Australian universities is an important development. An east-west light rail line between UWA's Crawley campus and Curtin University in Bentley will connect a 'Knowledge Arc' that includes Technology Park in Bentley (home to CSIRO, Australian Resources Research Centre, Pawsey Supercomputer Centre and also UWA gas research laboratories).
I have written on the importance of changing the narrative for our State as we transition from an intense construction phase to a longer term operating phase for major resource projects. It remains a key challenge to take the lessons from the past, harness our geological and geographic advantages and also embrace our intellectual assets.
UWA's Energy and Minerals Institute established a Perth CBD office five years ago in the Brookfield Heritage precinct. We're located in the heart of the CBD to directly engage our industry and community stakeholders. A greater role for our universities in our capital city is a positive and necessary step to increased economic and social activation. It is also supports the wave of innovation and entrepreneurship that is being displayed throughout the CBD. Innovation hubs and shared workspaces such as Spacecubed and Flux are all designed to accelerate the development of new enterprises. As we are more interconnected through digital technology and flexible, shared work spaces, barriers to new business generation are lessened and creativity is rewarded. Universities must embrace this opportunity.
Change is on the way
While the local government changes are, at one level, only lines on a map and our physical location hasn't changed nor has our relatively proximity to other key landmarks shifted, the power of maps to change the narrative of a place or region is undeniable. It is this power on which I am seeking to 'capitalise'. W.A.s Premier recently identified Perth as a gateway destination for a relaunched State Tourism strategy; I suggest adding value and richness to this gateway through the additional lens of a UniverCity and reinforcing our credentials as both a resource-rich and knowledge-led economy.