By OSCAR PERRI
Engagement between the Town Council and Charles Darwin University must progress beyond “surface level” conversations before the CDU can help fulfil the town’s potential created by its unique aspects.
That’s the view of Jay Walker, CDU’s Central Australia Vice Chancellor, who says Alice Springs needs a Mayor with an optimistic vision for the future.
Mr Walker says he sometimes has conversations with council CEO Robert Jennings and has met the Mayor and some elected members on occasion.
“We should be collaborating more, particularly around workforce development and community engagement within our region. Council is a pillar of our community, and the university should be one as well.
“We should be leveraging each other’s strengths in that space,” says Mr Walker.
“We have a role to play together in terms of regional leadership, around the power of education but also the power of maximising each other’s institutions for better outcomes for Alice Springs.
“That could be in training, workforce, apprenticeships, and looking at Federally funded projects where we can go in together to access funds for a community outcome.”
CDU is currently in the early stages of “revitalising” its Alice Springs campus, which will see five new degree courses, including teaching, and a range of healthcare courses will be added to the offerings next year, as well as a push to reconnect with the community and promote the region.
Mr Walker says that CDU would welcome council’s input in the way this rolls out, but so far discussions have been “very loose”.
He says that working together on collaborative projects could hasten CDU’s ambition for a larger presence in the community as well as address the workforce shortage that is affecting Alice Springs organisations, including Council.
CDU are also suffering from the housing shortage in Alice Springs, with all 34 student accommodation spots occupied and demand likely to only increase as more courses are added.
Mr Walker says that this issue needs to be addressed by Council to avoid a bottleneck in opportunities for Alice Springs organisations.
“it would be really great to have a formal, structured relationship where we actually collaborate on a range of projects.
“A big part of the university’s problem in the past in Central Australia is that we haven’t necessarily been involved in the planning.”
He says that the university is interested in participating in the CARGO project, which aims to connect local organisations in advocating for the region. However, the Council CEO, who heads up CARGO, recently told Council that he has put it “on the backburner”.
Says Mr Walker: “I’d really love to see whoever comes in as Mayor as someone with a mindset around [coordinated regional development] and by understanding the value of the university and leveraging that, for the benefit of Central Australia and Alice Springs.
“We need people to champion in our region, regardless of whatever else is happening, to focus on this place and, and how we can make it a wonderful place to live, work and invest in.
“Alice Springs needs someone who really understands how special this place is and the opportunity that’s out there to really progress this place and move it forward.”
PHOTO: Dr Adelle Sefton-Rowston of the CDU’s Ywrite, a project that aims to develop and deliver creative writing workshops for groups incarcerated in the NT.