It is worthy of note that approximately 22 per cent of the people living in Forrest are children, up to the age of 14 years-a higher percentage than those living in the rest of Australia. But, for me, the group aged between 15 and 24 years stands at only 12.2 per cent, a lower percentage than the rest of Australia.
Here is where some of the regional issues kick in. I am using this statistic to illustrate that this is an issue facing youth and families in regional areas such as Forrest. I attribute this lower percentage to the need for students to leave my regional area to pursue tertiary education at universities in Perth and beyond. Many never return to live and work within the region again.
To improve student retention in the south-west, I will maintain support for the development of a further tertiary institution.
It is essential to create additional strengths for the south-west economy, integrating with expanding mining and resources sectors and providing industry and various employment sectors with related programs such as engineering and surveying and trades that in the longer term will help to provide and address some of the chronic skills shortages in my region. Equally, it would attract and retain residents to study, train and work in our local communities.
This initiative, importantly, could also reduce the financial burden on south-west students and their families who need to leave home to study at metropolitan universities and tertiary institutions. I want to ensure a sustainable evolving generation for tomorrow.
Talented, motivated young people are essential to my region and to Australia. With a population growth projection of 45 per cent in the greater Bunbury region, Busselton and surrounding areas between now and 2021, the challenge ahead is to plan for and invest in the infrastructure and social services required to accommodate this growth.
I take great comfort from the knowledge that Forrest is actually a microsnapshot of regional Australia. When I stand in the House of Representatives to action initiatives, I can be assured that the benefits will apply to the broader regional population as well as to my own electorate.