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Lumen Winter 2006 Issue
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Bishop signals education overhaul

The elevation of Julie Bishop to the Federal Cabinet earlier this year gives the University of Adelaide law graduate a chance to overhaul one of Australia's most critical areas--education.

Ms Bishop was sworn in as Minister for Education, Science and Training on 26 January.

It's nearly 30 years since Ms Bishop graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Adelaide in 1978. She then practised law and became a partner in the Adelaide law firm, Mangan Ey & Bishop before moving to Perth in 1983.

In Western Australia she practised as a commercial litigation solicitor with Robinson Cox (now Clayton Utz). She became a partner in Clayton Utz in 1985 and managing partner in 1994.

In the first two months in her new portfolio, the Education Minister has made her priorities clear.

On 10 February, Ms Bishop announced that main-round offers of university places in 2006 for school leavers had increased by 4.4% nationally. In South Australia, offers were up by 10.5%.

"This year there are 18,500 more higher education places in the sector than in 2004. By 2009 the Australian Government will have provided more than 39,000 new higher education places" Ms Bishop said.

Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on 28 February, Ms Bishop said the Federal Government's policy initiative, the Research Quality Framework (RQF), would identify areas in which specific universities excelled.

"It is my intention that the RQF will be used to distribute a significant proportion of the research block funding that universities receive each year. The RQF will assess both the quality and the broader impact of research. Quality will focus on the inherent academic excellence of research, and impact will evaluate the economic, social, cultural and environmental usefulness of the research."

Within a month of her appointment, Ms Bishop announced details of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Roadmap, a $542 million initiative, which outlines priority research areas identified by the Federal Government.

The priority investment areas identified for 2006 include: evolving bimolecular platforms and informatics; optical and radio astronomy; integrated marine observing systems; and the structure and evolution of the Australian continent.

On 10 March, Ms Bishop invited universities to apply for a share of $27 million funding under the Australian Government's Workplace Productivity Program.

The program aims to reform efficiencies and human resources in the nation's universities.

"The Workplace Productivity Program will assist Australia's universities to become more efficient and competitive," Ms Bishop said.

She told Lumen that she was looking forward to the challenges presented by her new portfolio.

"In relation to education, I want to ensure the sector--from primary and secondary to vocational and tertiary--provides opportunities for every Australian to become a well-rounded, physically and mentally healthy contributing member of our society.

"I am also keen to ensure that the education sector keeps pace with the rapid changes occurring in our community and in our workplaces."

Ms Bishop described her time at the University of Adelaide in the mid-1970s as "a wonderful experience".

"I studied law, but seemed to spend as much time in the (then) old Tech Refectory as I did in lectures!"

She was elected secretary of the Law School Students' Association and had a direct role in organising the essential events in the Law School calender--"the pub crawls down Hindley Street and Rundle Mall, the Law School picnic at McLaren Vale and the Law School ball at Burnside Town Hall".

Her favourite lecturers included Professor Ivan Shearer, Professor Alex Castles and Professor Simon Palk. ■

Story Candy Gibson

Julie Bishop in Parliament
Photo courtesy of Ms Bishop’s office

Julie Bishop in Parliament
Photo courtesy of Ms Bishop's office

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