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May 2013

Sydney: the making of a public university=

By Monica Purcell

With the Labor Government announcing plans to fund the Gonski school reforms with $2 billion of university funding last month, the importance of funding Australian universities is once again at the forefront of political debate. Critics such as Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon condemn the plans, predicting a sharp decrease in the quality of higher education in Australia, with the inevitability of higher class sizes, staff redundancies and impoverished facilities resulting from budget cuts. Regional Universities Network executive director Caroline Perkins raises concerns about accessibility for disadvantaged students, with potential reductions of funding in scholarship and pathway programs. And Professor Glen Finger of Griffith University worries for the reputation of Australian universities worldwide. With such debate in mind it is worth taking time to reflect on how Australian universities have been valued since the opening of the first, Sydney University, in 1852.

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Social work education: voices from the Asia Pacific=

By Katharine Leonarder

As a young and very naive eighteen-year-old I travelled to Africa to teach English in a small rural primary school. Needless to say I think the locals managed to teach me more about the local Ghanaian culture than I, in my unqualified and idealistic state, ever managed to teach the children about nouns or verbs. Until I opened Social work education: voices from the Asia Pacific, it had never occurred to me that I had been, albeit in a very small way, learning about something far broader and more complex than my young mind could fathom – social work.

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Playing in the bush: recreation and national parks in New South Wales=

By Monica Purcell

With thousands of protesters rallying outside Parliament House last month to stop amateur hunting in New South Wales’ national parks, issues regarding the purpose and ideals of our national parks and their visitors have once again come to a head. On the one hand, amateur hunters maintain their right to enjoy these parks just other members of the public do. However, public figures such as former NSW environment minister Bob Debus condemn the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell’s plans to allow amateur hunters to conduct ‘pest control’ in national parks, labelling them as ‘a deliberate attack’ on the environment. Organised groups of bushwalkers and various other stakeholders raise cries in concern for the safety of other park visitors. Today, Fairfax Media broke the news of a draft report recommending that ‘the government should “immediately” consider opening national parks and other reserved areas for logging to ensure the viability of the timber industry’. In light of such heated debate it is worth taking a moment to reflect on how responses to these issues have changed over time.

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