ADDRESSING an industry forum on the future of Muresk, Hendy Cowan, author of the report into the future of post secondary rural education in WA, revealed that while he couldn't give out a copy of his report, as it was the property of the Minister (for Education), he could say what was in it.
"I do know that she has circulated the report among the upper levels of the education bureaucracy, but I also know that she did not send a copy to the agricultural colleges or to TAFE, the organisation that is hoping to move onto the Muresk Campus," Mr Cowan said.
"This decision to withhold the report from such important stakeholders is beyond my comprehension.
"I don't even know where the report is in the system, but I do know that it hasn't yet gone to Cabinet, a move that is long overdue.
"I have observed normal ministerial protocol for nearly four months, but I believe that it is important that the industry knows what it is that the government is, hopefully, considering.
"The importance of the subject was highlighted by a recent report commissioned by the Australian Vice Chancellors Association, which showed that Australia needs around 4200 graduates a year to service the agri-food industries, but it produces less than 700 annually.
"Briefly, I have recommended that the assets at the Muresk campus be placed under the management of an independent board, with the government supplying $10 million to the entity.
"There is a need to spend about $5m on capital works to make good the deterioration suffered by the facilities as Curtin ran the campus down preparatory to leaving.
"The other $5m will allow an independent body to ensure that the Muresk facilities could be open to anybody as the facility is restricted if it is owned by one provider, plus, if you don't have money, nothing happens.
"I recommended that the Royalties for Regions would be a good source for the funds and I understand that suggestion has been well received."
Mr Cowan said the need for an interim working group was emphasised.
"This is so a business plan can be developed, but without a funding commitment from government, such a group would spend its time chasing its tail," he said.
"The proposal by TAFE fits well into the vision outlined in the report, as it provides a pathway to students from secondary schools into one and two year qualifications and into a university course, perhaps run eventually by TAFE, or certainly by existing universities using the resurrected Muresk facilities.
"While universities are searching for enrolments to meet the unmet demand for graduates, WA's agricultural colleges have 500 students and a waiting list, two factors that my report puts together."
When thanking Mr Cowan, Dr Ian Fairnie, a past Muresk director and leader in the move to keep the 84-year-old facility open, reminded those attending that Muresk courses were once assessed independently as the premier agricultural courses in Australia.
"The government owns the Muresk facility and $10m will keep it open and Hendy Cowan's report is no bandaid, it is a blueprint for a positive outcome," Dr Fairnie said.
"The need for the government to make a decision is urgent as this option, which could provide a model for the rest of Australia, provides an opportunity that may never happen again."