UoN Central Coast 30 Years on

Filed under Education & Childcare, News ~ by Press on  31 Jul 2019

Central Coast celebrates 30 years of the ‘community campus’.

Staff, students and alumni from the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah campus celebrated the 30th anniversary yesterday (31 July 2019).

Since welcoming its first cohort of 89 students in July 1989, more than 15,000 more have completed degrees, courses and diplomas at the University, TAFE NSW and Central Coast Community College.

First of the permanent buildings at the Central Coast campus in 1992

Built on the site of an old farm, the campus has moved on from the early days of portable classrooms and makeshift offices. It now offers state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities, including clinical laboratories designed to simulate hospital wards, virtual reality simulations and a Sara Lee kitchen where students develop and test food product samples.

More than 200 guests, including Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith, attended afternoon and evening receptions, with an exhibition of historical photographs and memorabilia, such as a model of the old campus, old signage and graduation programs, as well as a series of videos featuring stories of people connected to the campus – students past and present, researchers, academics and members of the community. 

Campus will hosted two performances of Goori Dooki, the successful Indigenous play which opened in the Civic Theatre earlier this year.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said the milestone was an opportunity to reflect on the positive impact the campus has had on the local community.

The Ourimbah campus was founded with the purpose of giving people from all backgrounds access to a higher education, and all of the life-changing opportunities that education can bring,” Professor Zelinsky said. 

Over the past 30 years, we’ve established a proud history here of not just offering any type of higher education, but one that provides hands-on learning environments, relevant work-integrated learning opportunities, and programs that are tailored to the workforce needs of local business and industry.

This significant milestone gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past 30 years with those who have made this campus such a success – our inspiring students and alumni, our world-class teachers and researchers, and vital community and industry partners. With them, we look forward to celebrating the next 30 years of success on the Coast.”

Ancient links and farmland history

The 80-hectare bushland site has an ancient link with learning, and is celebrated as a significant site by the Central Coast’s first peoples – the Darkinjung. For tens of thousands of years, the Darkinjung and other Indigenous people recognised the site as a place of learning, knowledge exchange, healing and celebration

Once a working farm, the first students would walk past Bamford the Bull – the first of many of the campus’ mascots – on their path to classes in the old farm buildings. The tranquil lily pond is home to many ducks and water birds, and the campus community has fond memories of Gary the Goose and Roger the Rooster, who made the campus their home.

Although the campus has undergone much regeneration over the past three decades, all buildings have been designed to blend with its natural environment.

In November 2011, it underwent its most significant expansion to date, opening a new $4.8million education and nursing building, including a simulation laboratory for nursing students, as well as a $7.7million exercise and sport science building, including a fully-equipped gym which can be used by students as part of their degree training.

In February 2012, a new $3.2million library opened on site – a focal point of the campus today. In May 2015, the University opened a $1.5million state-of-the-art oral health simulation facility which now offers a ground-breaking virtual reality simulation allowing students to practice administering dental injections using an Oculus headset.

The redevelopment has been built on the University’s strategy of offering education facilities that are tailored to the needs of industry on the Coast, with many degrees provided exclusively at Ourimbah. In 2020, coastal and marine science and public community health programs will be offered for the first time.

Aerial view of the main campus buildings after their official opening in 1995
Multi-campus vision

Earlier this year, the University unveiled its vision for an integrated multi-campus solution for the Central Coast, with plans for a new campus in Gosford’s CBD already receiving $18 million funding from the Federal government.

In 2021, the new $85million Central Coast Medical School and Research Institute (CCMSRI) will open at Gosford Hospital. A joint project with the Central Coast Local Health District – and funded by the Federal and NSW State Government – the CCMSRI will, for the first time, allow students studying medicine to complete the full Bachelor of Medicine program on the Central Coast.

The new CCMSRI will strengthen the University’s links with the local health sector. Just last year it celebrated the 10th anniversary of its joint medical program, a unique partnership with the University of New England, Central Coast and Hunter New England Local Health Districts, enabling more than 1,000 practising doctors to support students with hands-on, practical learning.

The community’s campus’

Ourimbah campus is a joint facility, with courses and programs delivered not only by the University of Newcastle, but also by TAFE NSW and Central Coast Community College, which are co-located on site along with NSW Department of Primary Industries, Regional Development Australia, and other government bodies and local businesses.

As well as delivering education and research, the campus also provides a number of outreach services to support the health and wellbeing of the community in oral health, podiatry and psychology.

One such service is the Senior Smiles program which, for more than a decade, has been assisting elderly residents in aged care facilities on the Central Coast with their oral health through student placements, prevention, intervention, treatment and referral pathways. The program has been so successful that in 2017 the University’s School of Health Science received more than half a million dollars from Elderslee Foundation Australia to advance it.

Ourimbah campus has a very unique community feel,” Professor Zelinsky said.

We have TAFE NSW, the Central Coast Community College and local businesses based on site, our courses are designed in consultation with industry, and we offer outreach services here. It really is the community’s campus.”

Alumni and long-serving staff member

University of Newcastle alumna and long-standing academic, Dr Rosalie Bunn, has inspired thousands of Open Foundation students to pursue their educational goals and realise their potential – a path which Dr Bunn took herself. 

After graduating from Morisset High School, Dr Bunn worked as a Clerk with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration before becoming a mother.  

Reflecting on her journey as the University’s Ourimbah campus celebrates 30 years, Dr Bunn said it was a desire to reach her full academic potential which led her to enrol in Open Foundation at the University of Newcastle in 1985 – a reason which resonates with many of the students she has taught.

I left the workforce to raise my family of four children but did not feel I had achieved what I was capable of and I loved the idea of further education,” Dr Bunn said.

Her return to study ignited a life-long passion for learning.

Dr Bunn has since completed a number of degrees including Master of Education, which she studied while concurrently teaching Social Enquiry as part of the Open Foundation program at Callaghan campus. 

An advocate for access to education on the Central Coast, Dr Bunn began teaching at Ourimbah campus in 1998, when she pushed for a Callaghan-based subject to be offered on the Coast. At the time, more than 40 of her students were commuting from the Coast to Callaghan campus for the class.

Holding various teaching and advisory positions over her years, Dr Bunn said she saw the Open Foundation program at Ourimbah campus grow and develop, especially in relation to support for students.

Ourimbah campus is such a beautiful place to work and study. My colleagues all care deeply about the students, and the students themselves are hardworking, committed and so resilient,” Dr Bunn said.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Dr Bunn said the Ourimbah campus and its offerings had transformed lives.

When I think about all the single mothers who are doing PhDs or now studying Law, or those who became nurses or teachers, I know our campus and the Open Foundation program has lived up to its reputation for changing people’s lives,” Dr Bunn said.

Last year, Dr Bunn furthered her education, completing a PhD researching how the unique Open Foundation enabling program had helped reshape the lives of local people, their families and the greater community, lifting aspiration and providing foundation skills to develop the professional work force of the Central Coast.

Dr Bunn said her research revealed it was very clear that students who came from a background where they hadn’t had the opportunity to gain a Higher School Certificate still had a great deal to offer our communities.

More than 16 per cent of the former Open Foundation students I surveyed went on to do postgraduate study,” Dr Bunn said.

I have taught so many inspiring students. They all have their own amazing stories. I remember teaching a mother and daughter who both became Family Law lawyers. The mother established her own law firm and her daughter worked there, too, before working independently.

The Ourimbah campus, and Open Foundation program, is serving the Central Coast region in a very positive and productive way.”

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