Frank Lyons, OAM – Inaugural Principal of the Sunraysia College of TAFE (as it was then known)
Sunraysia Institute of TAFE (SuniTAFE) is one of the largest providers of vocational education and training in north-west Victoria. A small TAFE with a large reach, the Institute was established in 1980 as a result of the dream of local educators who saw the introduction of post-secondary education to the district as being integral to the needs of the growing community and regional industry.
The Sunraysia College of TAFE, as it was known then, was the first purpose-designed and built TAFE College in Victoria. The College was designed not only to provide a quality teaching program that would meet the needs of the community and industry but also to provide training access to those living in remote regional areas of north-west Victoria. Indeed the construction of residential accommodation and the planning of childcare facilities were included in the very initial planning phase of the new college. This was unprecedented in Victoria at the time but was strongly fought for by the steering committee as being necessary to break down barriers to access for remote students.
Removing educational obstacles for regional and rural students was a significant driver for the initial establishment of the Institute. During the very early years of the Institute’s inception the vital role partnerships with other educational providers could play was recognised. Links and relationships were fostered with Ballarat University College, La Trobe University, Hawthorn Institute of Education, Victoria College and Deakin University. It is notable to mention that the SuniTAFE of today continues to enjoy strong links with all of these early partners although it might be through another entity.
SuniTAFE today is a vibrant institute with two main campuses located at Mildura and Swan Hill, rural campuses at Robinvale and Ouyen and a training farm at Cardross near Mildura. Together these facilities provide vocational education and training for the people of Loddon Mallee north and beyond, indeed the Institute now has programs on its scope of registration in every state and territory in Australia. Through the use of technology and a commitment to building educational partnerships that improve opportunities for students, the Institute’s reach now extends far beyond the boundaries of its geographic location.