Senator talks education during Colac visit

Opposition trades spokeswoman Penny Wong, second from right, with Colac Otway Shire Council chief Sue Wilkinson, mayor Frank Buchanan, Bulla’s James Downey, AKD’s Luke Vesey, Labor candidate Libby Coker, ALC’s Mick Bird and Cr Brian Crook.

Opposition trades spokeswoman Penny Wong, second from right, with Colac Otway Shire Council chief Sue Wilkinson, mayor Frank Buchanan, Bulla’s James Downey, AKD’s Luke Vesey, Labor candidate Libby Coker, ALC’s Mick Bird and Cr Brian Crook.

FEDERAL OPPOSITION trades spokeswoman Penny Wong says the Federal Government should focus on improving education retention to tackle high unemployment rates.

Ms Wong met with representatives from Bulla, Australian Lamb Company, AKD Softwoods, Colac Otway Shire Council and G21 to discuss the region’s growth during a visit to Colac.

Ms Wong said the visit helped her gain a better understanding of the challenges the council and business leaders were facing.

“It was really useful and valuable for me to listen to not only the firms but the council as well, and not just the opportunities but some of the challenges for the region,” she said on Thursday.

“The primary thing that was emphasised was your unemployment rates or your education retention rates, so how long people stay in school, and there’s a lot of work that can be done to improve those two targets.

“It was good to talk with the councils and these businesses; to discuss what can be done to ensure we have more people in jobs over the next 10 years.

“They have to make sure people have the opportunity to get the skills they need to take these opportunities.”

Ms Wong said federal education funding changes would have a negative impact on the region and could cause already high unemployment rates to increase.

“The last thing this region needs is cuts to education when you already have so many of your young people who are disadvantaged by not being in a position to finish their education,” she said.

Ms Wong said she was impressed with how the council, G21 and the businesses worked together to tackle challenges.

“I think what I really noticed in the room was that you’ve got a lot of good collaborations going on,” she said.

“We talk about in terms of regional development and partnerships, the importance of collaboration of public and private and different levels of government, and you have obviously already had a lot of that.

“You’ve got some really great opportunities here; you’ve got some good firms and a much more diversified economy then many regional areas.

“The three businesses, Australian Lamb Company, AKD Softwoods and Bulla are obviously successful companies that are looking to diversify, that are looking to expand.

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