Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Northern Daily Leader Journalist, Jamieson Murphy.
IF you live in, or near, a major regional city in NSW, you live near a university - that is, except if you're in the Tamworth area.
Tamworth is the only city in regional NSW without a university.
It's a bizarre anomaly, because it's a city that has everything. Tamworth is a place that has everything a family would look for in a city (except a beach).
There's a great hospital, great schools, a thriving CBD, excellent sporting facilities, world-class arenas like the AELEC (the nation's largest equine centre) and the 5000-seat entertainment centre.
Everything, except a university.
A university represents more than just a blue-chip on a city's resume. It's a way to broaden the local economy.
If this ongoing dry spell has taught us anything, it's that regional areas need to think like a Wall Street stockbroker, and diversify their portfolios.
Agriculture will always be the engine room of the proverbial steam train that is our regional economy. But I think we would all love to see academics shovelling coal into that engine, to keep it humming along.
Last year alone, the Charles Sturt University campus at Orange pumped more than $28 million into the city's economy and created almost 400 jobs.
The University of New England (UNE), based an hour and a half up the road in Armidale, is refining its plan for a campus in Tamworth, with a specific focus on playing to the city's strengths.
Tamworth has the Country Music Festival every January, but the city's music industry is bubbling away quietly in the background all year. UNE wants to bring that to the foreground by offering a range of music courses and potentially creating a music excellence hub.
Tamworth also has a large food processing industry, so UNE has plans for food technology and agricultural courses.
On top of that, the traditional degrees in health, education and business, which form the backbone of many regional economies, will also be offered.
So far, the state government has contributed $26.4 million to the campus, and it's hoped the federal government will kick in a further $10 million.
But that still leaves the campus about $25 million short. Let's hope the government finds the cash for this proverbial steam train.
Jamieson Murphy is a journalist at the Northern Daily Leader
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