From its humble beginnings 25 years ago CQUniversity Bundaberg has developed into a state-of-the-art campus that has changed the lives of thousands of people in the Bundaberg community.
It was 1988 when CQUniversity first had a presence in the Bundaberg Region as the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education and included two courses – Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Teaching.
Some years later CQUniversity acquired 23 hectares of land and in 1994 the campus officially opened its first building. This was also the first year the university began the tradition of a formal annual graduation ceremony.
Associate Vice-Chancellor Luke Sinclair said, at the beginning, students were limited to only studying the first year of their course on the campus until 1997 when second-year studies began in a number of courses.
As the number of students grew so did the number of staff members, some of whom have been teaching with CQUniversity for more than three decades.
Decades of inspiration
One of the founding CQUniversity members was Margaret Flanders who has been with the educational facility as a lecturer for 30 years.
Mrs Flanders has a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Applied Science and a Diploma of Tertiary Studies.
“I think now what was I doing before this?” Mrs Flanders laughed.
“I think it is fabulous to have a facility like CQU in Bundaberg and I think the people and community really respect having this type of learning institution here.
“It gives people access to something bigger towns, bigger cities, that those students just take for granted.”
Another long-serving lecturer is Professor Helen Huntly who has worked at CQUniversity for 31 years, and she says the close connection between the university and the community is exceptional.
“It is just lovely to be here; the Bundaberg campus has a special feel – the staff are very close and supportive of each other,” Prof Huntly said.
“We have always had a really close connection with the community, and we’ve always had really strong support with our regional engagement.
“When I first started there were two degrees, business and teacher education. From that it has grown to 30 courses with allied health, physiotherapy and engineering.
“In the early days we would never have thought we would have enough students for, or the funding or support to do this, but over time it has just grown and we are very proud of our Bundaberg campus.”
Karen Seary started in a lecturer role and is now the Associate Dean of Bundaberg CQUniversity.
Ms Seary said she been involved in many aspects of running the university and said one of the biggest changes in her time was the amount of buildings … “they just kept coming”.
It was not just the buildings that stood out in Ms Seary’s mind, she said the number of courses on offer had grown substantially during her time and with this came a growth in staff numbers.
Ms Seary said having CQUniversity in the Bundaberg Region was vital and ensured strength in the community.
“It’s incredibly important I think, it keeps families together for longer,” she said.
“We are able to create a ready workforce here and it certainly provides an educated workforce for the local community.
“It’s just a wonderful place to work and for me the area I work in, STEPS, is for people who come here because they want to change their lifestyle through education, some don’t even have a Year 10 education and they go on to do wonderful things.”
CQUniversity student counsellor Michele Palu has been at the university for 27 years and she said it was nice to see so many colleagues had stayed with the same educational facility.
“I love seeing students’ growth also, not just academically but within themselves – it is amazing,” she said.
From little things big things grow
Mr Sinclair said from small beginnings, the campus had grown to about 250 staff, including casual employees.
He said about 2600 students had graduated from the Bundaberg campus, which was an excellent achievement. There are just over 2000 current students at CQUniversity.
“This is a university that came about because of the community and the community wanted it and it was essentially delivered to them,” he said.
“We have grown over the 25 years since we have had a campus, but we have been here since 1988 and originally in a different form.
“This has come from donations, political support and community support.
“The courses we have put on are the courses the community wanted and needed, which I think is the key to the success that we have had.”
CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor and president Professor Nick Klomp said a quarter of a century was a big milestone and what stood out most for him when he visited the Bundaberg Region was how the community embraced the university.
“The university has spent 25 years in giving back to the community by providing opportunities in secondary education, producing graduates in a whole range of fields, research and supporting industry, while working with the Council – I am just so proud of CQUniversity to be doing all of that,” Prof Klomp said.
“I met the Mayor for the first time today.
“I’ve been in the job for seven months and people kept telling me I really needed to meet the Mayor to get a vision and enthusiasm and excitement for Bundaberg and I now know exactly what they are talking about – great vision and enthusiasm, but he also has the goods to back it up.
“If half of his ideas came off, it will be really amazing to see what Bundaberg will be like in another 25 years.”
Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey congratulated CQUniversity on its milestone.
“There has been remarkable growth in student numbers, course offerings and local campus facilities,” he said.
“These achievements have only been possible through the dedication of staff and students, and the partnerships that have been forged with industry, government and the community.”
Mayor Dempsey said the university had a key role in transforming the Bundaberg Region from one of the most disadvantaged communities in Australia to one of the most successful.
“CQUniversity can help unlock our latent talent and realise our full potential,” he said.
“Council is developing the Bundaberg Region as a model Australian intelligent community and I can’t overstate how important CQUniversity is to achieve that goal.
“I sincerely believe that education is the vital ingredient to realise our vision of building Australia’s best regional community.”
- Other news: Local artist wins CQUniversity Creates Indigenous Art Award