Local, Independant and Effective

Wodonga a place of opportunities

Posted December 02, 2016

 

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (19:40): Tonight I would like to honour and acknowledge the people of the major town of Wodonga, in my electorate of Indi. My connection with Wodonga goes back a long way, and tonight I would briefly like to talk about my personal connection with and commitment to this great town, some of the statistics about it, some of the challenges that it faces and also some of the opportunities that it has presented. In talking about Wodonga, I always start with my grandmother. My grandmother was born at the turn of the last century. Her father worked in Australia Post in the olden days, and his job was to get on the train in Wodonga, go down to Melbourne and sort the mail on the way through. One of the fascinating things about having a history that goes back that far is that grandpa would tell stories of the Kelly gang and the things that used to happen in Glenrowan. That was the great-greats.

In a connection closer to my own period, my father was actively involved in the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation, when we had the vision of growth that Mr Whitlam outlined for rural and regional Australia—there would actually be investment in these beautiful country centres to see if we could make a go of them. Certainly, the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation and the cities that we have now are huge testament to that vision. I come to this parliament and often wish we could have the same visionary leadership for rural and regional Australia. I grew up in the shadow of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation and the aspirations and the vision and the planning that went with it, and I am now grateful for that work.

Some of the statistics about Wodonga make for interesting reading. It is Victoria's fastest-growing regional centre, with an average growth rate of around two per cent per annum. At 35, the median age is young by Victorian standards. We have 16.5 per cent of the population engaged in manufacturing, so Wodonga still has a really vital, strong manufacturing industry, which it holds onto fiercely. It is a great place to live and it has got a fantastic fight to it.

There are some things that I particularly love about Wodonga. It is right in the heart of the Murray Valley, so it is surrounded by hills. We have the beautiful Murray River and the Wodonga Creek running through it. We have the Hume Weir. We have opportunities for bike riding, horseriding and walking. There is no shortage of things to do, including at the Hume Weir and in surrounding towns. There are fantastic services. Service clubs are strong and vibrant. There are neighbourhood houses in most of the communities. There are active churches. There are so many groups for people to participate in. There are great sporting facilities. We have access to international, state and local transport through the Albury Airport and the Hume Highway and by the train line that goes right through the area.

But Wodonga is not without its challenges, I have to say. One of the big issues that we are looking at is the need for long-term jobs to keep Albury-Wodonga's manufacturing growing. We really need to look long term at how we get the specialist jobs and the people with the specialist skills to come and live in regional Australia. There is an interesting statistic: health services say that 70 per cent of the jobs in Albury Wodonga Health require a tertiary education. But we do not provide that education locally, so we have to get them from Melbourne or Sydney or Adelaide. One of the huge things we have to do is make sure that in the regions we have higher education opportunities that provide specialist professions. Many people do not want to go away to the cities. They actually want to stay locally and get the training that we can provide. We have the two universities—La Trobe and CSU—and we have TAFE, but we just do not seem to have the critical mass to provide all the workforce that we need.

Another big area is sports development. As the population continues to grow, we have got to do work with Baranduda Fields. We have got to actually grow large-scale sporting facilities in the new communities. Wodonga racing club is working on developing its facilities, and it needs support.

But it is rail infrastructure—the train that goes between Melbourne and Sydney—that really needs work, and not only V/Line, the train, but also the railway. ARTC has huge problems with that track.

In closing, I would like tonight to particularly congratulate the leadership team that runs Wodonga: our mayor, Anna Speedie—congratulations on your election—and Patience Harrington, CEO. You do a fantastic job, and I am very proud to be in this House and represent you, and I am looking forward to addressing these challenges in the coming years, showcasing Wodonga and really helping this community to reach its full potential.

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