Vice-Regal visit to Bega campus an inspiration for students

One of Australia’s most distinguished former military officers NSW Governor The Hon David Hurley visits UOW.

Governor visit to UOW Bega
Left to right: Ms Anne Snowball, Director, Regional Campuses and Student Diversity, the NSW Governor David Hurley, Professor Eeva Leinonen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), and Ms Samantha Avitaia, Manager, UOW Bega Campus.

Students and staff at UOW's Bega Campus rubbed shoulders with one of Australia’s most distinguished former military officers when the New South Wales Governor The Honourable David Hurley visited.

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd) and his wife Mrs Linda Hurley met a group of students over a light lunch to talk about their aspirations, goals, and student life.

Master of Teaching student Hollie Russell presented the Governor with a memento of his visit on behalf of UOW.

The Governor said he was keenly interested to learn about and support initiatives in youth education, Indigenous education and what is being done to support regional and rural New South Wales.

“Coming to a campus like the University of Wollongong in Bega brings a lot of that together for me,” he said. “I’m here to learn, to see the success UOW is having in providing education for local kids. They don’t have to leave town and go to the big city, they can come here and continue to contribute to the community as they learn.

“This particular campus also has a number of Indigenous youth who are likely to be the first in their family to gain a tertiary education and I’m delighted to see that and I congratulate the University on the success they are achieving and to say that this sort of model works and there should be more of it.”

The Governor encouraged students to apply for Rhodes and Monash scholarships, describing both as “life-changing opportunities”. 

“We need to create opportunities for everyone in Australia for the future,” the Governor said. “Access to education is critical to providing the means for young people to learn and develop skills.

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Governor Hurley told students that life was “not static” and involved a process of constant learning and growth.

The Vice-Regal visit to UOW Bega was hosted by Professor Eeva Leinonen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic); Ms Anne Snowball, Director, Regional Campus and Student Diversity; and Samantha Avitaia, Manager of UOW Bega.

The Bega campus has been a vital part of the local community for close to 15 years. In 2015 it has welcomed 170 students, with an increase of close to 15 per cent on 2014 enrolments.

It has also expanded its course offerings to include degrees in social sciences and early years education.

Arts student Rose Lidall, from Tura, said pursuing higher education was only possible for her because of the regional campus.

“As a single mum it simply wasn’t possible for me to move away to study,” she said. “It’s so valuable to be able to stay in your local community and have the support of friends and family while you study.

“Having a local campus also makes education more affordable.”

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Meeting the Governor adds to her list of recent life experiences, which includes a recent three-month trip to Peru where she visited ancient Inca ruins including Machu Picchu as part of her studies.

“The University is delighted to have the support of the Governor in our efforts to provide valuable education opportunities for students in regional New South Wales,” Professor Leinonen said.

“The students and staff at Bega are a fine example of how UOW’s regional campuses are a vital part of their local communities and it was a wonderful opportunity for them to showcase their achievements as well as listen and learn from the Governor,” she said.

Governor Hurley has a strong connection with the region. The son of Norma and James Hurley, an Illawarra steelworker, he grew up in Port Kembla and attended a local high school.

UOW bestowed the then General Hurley an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree in 2013, in recognition of his role as an outstanding son of Wollongong who has served his country with distinction.

After an outstanding military career spanning four decades, he became the Chief of the Defence Force in 2011 and was last year appointed the State’s 38th Governor, the oldest position in public office in Australia, following on from Dame Marie Bashir.

Governor Hurley has received several honours and awards, nationally and internationally, among them the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in Somalia during Operation SOLACE, an Order of Australia in 2004 for distinguished service, leadership and management, the Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the Australian Defence Force in 2010 and the United States’ Commander of the Legion of Merit in 2012.

He has raised the profile of the region across the country, leading Australia’s Defence personnel and providing inspiration to Australians from all walks of life.