07 March 2016

Mount Gambier Learning CentreIt is a new flagship development in Mt Gambier officially opening in April, and UniSA’s Learning Centre is not only providing better educational opportunities and more life on campus for regional students, it has also become the focus of some amazing support from the local community.

 Regional nursing students are now able to access the same purpose built learning environment and resources as their metropolitan counterparts, thanks to a recently completed $12.5 million world-class specialist experiential learning facility and a wonderful donation from the Mount Gambier Community Nursing Support Group Inc.

 The group, formally the Mount Gambier branch of South Australian Royal District and Bush Nursing Society of South Australia, had dwindled in numbers and wanted to distribute its remaining funds before dissolving.

 President, Bub McDonnell, Treasurer Joan Aikman and the Secretary Greg Muller, needed to ensure the Group’s objectives around community nursing initiatives were prioritised, believed the development at Mount Gambier by UniSA was a perfect project for nursing-focussed philanthropy and met the formal Objects of the Group.

 “Over the past two or three years, we looked at the sorts of initiatives that were occurring in Mount Gambier that were focussing on community nursing,” Mr Muller says.

 “Most of our funds ($95,000) were distributed to the University of South Australia with a smaller donation going to the Mount Gambier Hospital-Community Health.

 “UniSA is a well-established community organisation, providing the opportunity for young people to be educated close to home and then be of service to the community.

 “The University’s presence in Mount Gambier is magnificent – bringing university degree programs to the district is so important and a statement of faith by the University in our region.”

The new facilities in Mount Gambier offer not only contemporary learning spaces for the delivery of specialised theory but include a state-of-the-art simulated hospital and health service that can be used for undergraduate clinical preparation and continuing professional development of registered nurses and midwives employed in the regional health services.  

The 120-seat civic lecture gallery in the Learning Centre will also provide the space to hold community events, public lectures, seminars and forums that will be of significant benefit to the region.

The Mount Gambier Community Nursing Support Group’s generous donation was allocated to the construction of the Mount Gambier Community Nursing Support Room that will be used for training and support for nursing students and those involved in nursing in the wider community.

Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery Professor Carol Grech says having the opportunity to study nursing and midwifery in regional locations is an essential component to maintain a strong health workforce in country areas.

“School leavers coming into the Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Midwifery, can stay in their local community and within their well-established support networks while having the same learning experience and outcomes as those studying at a metropolitan campus,” Prof Grech says.

“Similarly, many mature-age learners coming into our programs are well established in Mount Gambier and the surrounding regions and have family responsibilities that restrict their ability to access higher degree studies in the city, so being able to stay local is an enabler for them to gain a nursing and or midwifery qualification and then take up positions in local hospitals and health services.

“To provide the infrastructure to support our innovative approaches to teaching and learning, as well as the ongoing maintenance and resourcing of our simulated Hospital and Health Service training facility, requires significant funding. 

“We are very grateful for the generosity shown by the Mount Gambier Community Nursing Support Group and thank them for their generosity. 

“The investment of the University, the Mount Gambier Nursing Support Group and the community as a whole will allow us to produce the best nurses and midwives possible and this will benefit the delivery of health services in the region as well as create a sustainable workforce into the future.”

Third year nursing student Hannah Walshaw, 23, who lives in Port MacDonnell 25 km south of Mount Gambier, is grateful to be studying locally.

“I studied Psychology in Adelaide but really needed to come home to help my partner with his business,” Hannah says.

 “I don’t have the self-motivation to study externally so being so close to home and part of such a close-knit educational community is perfect for me.

“I have been fortunate enough to use the new facilities a couple of times and can’t believe how up to date and state of the art they are and now I feel totally prepared about going out on placements.

“We have everything is as it would be in a metropolitan hospital so I feel confident training to hopefully become a registered nurse and work for Country Health SA.”

Media contact: Katrina McLachlan office +61 883020961 mob 0418823673 email katrina.mclachlan@unisa.edu.au

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