The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN [10.34 p.m.]: I refer tonight to an initiative in the Northern Rivers region called Knowledge Works. The background to the initiative is that it uses the same criteria and elements that comprise our knowledge-intensive nation—continuous improvement, new ideas, knowledge creation and organisational learning. These are the issues that are increasingly defining the competitiveness of regions in our modern global economy. The knowledge capability of many regions is being lost as a key capacity building element in today's global economy, just when it is needed most.
With that loss a significant platform for regional competitiveness in a knowledge-based global economy is also lost. Significant proportions of higher education graduates are leaving the regions, including our Northern Rivers region, in which they have been trained. They leave to find employment in metropolitan and overseas centres. Many regions are also home to key knowledge workers who are forced to export their skills elsewhere, which is not of itself a bad thing, but it means that the skills are going elsewhere and are not staying in the regions in which they are needed. As a result, many regions are missing out on the added benefits of locally fostered knowledge-based skills.
The Knowledge Works Initiative has as its objects: tailoring knowledge transfer mechanisms to higher education institutions to facilitate graduate entrepreneurial retention; facilitating the building of associations of a region's knowledge workers around key regional economic priorities and competitive needs of business enterprises; putting in place collaborative regional strategies to establish learning regions; undertaking regional knowledge capability audits; developing undergraduate and graduate links to business enterprises and mentoring programs as part of the higher education course programs; and facilitating knowledge transfer connections between the regions throughout Australia and overseas.
The practical outcomes are competitive business enterprises, improved organisational efficiency and development of a learning culture. Knowledge enhanced development extends other partnership-based approaches, such as clustering by building in a learning dimension to their operation. A component of the Knowledge Works Initiative in the Northern Rivers is the Northern Rivers Region Knowledge Transfer Project, which is supported by the Northern Development Task Force, Southern Cross University, the Southern Cross Research Institute and various government departments, such as the Commonwealth Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The project is focused in two directions.
The first direction is higher education and knowledge. This part of the Knowledge Works Initiative for the region is identifying the existing knowledge creation and transfer capability of the Southern Cross University as it relates to the structure of the local Northern Rivers region, and its potential contribution to economic competitiveness. It will also identify and trial knowledge transfer management mechanisms to enhance the flow of knowledge from the university to the regional business and institutional community. The second direction is regional knowledge of workers. This part of strategy focuses on the knowledge of workers in particular priority regional industry sectors in the Northern Rivers region, and aims to put in place initiatives to direct this to achieving competitive retail outcomes for local business.
Initial priority industries are film and audiovisual—Filmworks that I have previously spoken about in this House—environmental industries, horticulture and other emerging industries. One significant part of the project is that the Northern Rivers Region Knowledge Transfer Project works in collaboration with the European Union [EU] Project. It was the only region in Australia chosen to work at that level and to link up with all the developments that are happening in the EU, and with the University of Newcastle on Tyne, which has an international reputation for its work in regional development and knowledge transfer. I put on record my appreciation to all the people who were involved in bringing such a wonderful project to the Northern Rivers region.