The University of Newcastle, Australia

Central Coast celebrates 30 years of the ‘community campus’

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Staff, students and alumni from the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah campus will come together on Wednesday 31 July to celebrate the 30th anniversary of providing transformative education on the Central Coast campus.

Workmen at the Central Coast Campus, Ourimbah, - 11 September, 1989. Photo taken by Peter Muller courtesy University Cultural Collections.

Since welcoming its first cohort of 89 students to the campus in July 1989, more than 15,000 students have completed degrees, courses and diplomas offered by campus partners – the University, TAFE NSW and Central Coast Community College.

Built on the site of an old farm, the campus has changed dramatically from its early days of portable classrooms and makeshift offices. It now offers state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities, including clinical laboratories designed to simulate hospital wards, innovative virtual reality simulations and a Sara Lee kitchen where students can develop and test food product samples.

More than 200 guests, including Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith, are expected to attend the celebrations which include afternoon and evening receptions. Guests will be treated to an exhibition of historical photographs and memorabilia, such as a model of the old campus, old signage and graduation programs, as well as a series of videos featuring stories of people connected to the campus – students past and present, researchers, academics and members of the community.

On the day, the campus will host two free performances of Goori Dooki, the successful Indigenous play which opened in the Civic Theatre earlier this year, and a soloist will also perform.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said the milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the positive impact the campus has had on the local community.

“The Ourimbah campus was founded with the purpose of giving people from all backgrounds access to a higher education, and all of the life-changing opportunities that education can bring,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve established a proud history here of not just offering any type of higher education, but one that provides hands-on learning environments, relevant work-integrated learning opportunities, and programs that are tailored to the workforce needs of local business and industry.

“This significant milestone gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past 30 years with those who have made this campus such a success – our inspiring students and alumni, our world-class teachers and researchers, and vital community and industry partners. With them, we look forward to celebrating the next 30 years of success on the Coast.”

Ancient links and farmland history

The 80-hectare bushland site has an ancient link with learning, and is celebrated as a significant site by the Central Coast’s first peoples – the Darkinjung. For tens of thousands of years, the Darkinjung and other Indigenous people recognised the site as a place of learning, knowledge exchange, healing and celebration

Once a working farm, the first students would walk past Bamford the Bull – the first of many of the campus’ mascots – on their path to classes in the old farm buildings. The tranquil lily pond is home to many ducks and water birds, and the campus community has fond memories of Gary the Goose and Roger the Rooster, who made the campus their home.

Although the campus has undergone much regeneration over the past three decades, all buildings have been designed to blend with its natural environment.

In November 2011, it underwent its most significant expansion to date, opening a new $4.8million education and nursing building, including a simulation laboratory for nursing students, as well as a $7.7million exercise and sport science building, including a fully-equipped gym which can be used by students as part of their degree training.

In February 2012, a new $3.2million library opened on site – a focal point of the campus today. In May 2015, the University opened a $1.5million state-of-the-art oral health simulation facility which now offers a ground-breaking virtual reality simulation allowing students to practice administering dental injections using an Oculus headset.

The redevelopment has been built on the University’s strategy of offering education facilities that are tailored to the needs of industry on the Coast, with many degrees provided exclusively at Ourimbah. In 2020, coastal and marine science and public community health programs will be offered for the first time.

Multi-campus vision

Earlier this year, the University unveiled its vision for an integrated multi-campus solution for the Central Coast, with plans for a new campus in Gosford’s CBD already receiving $18 million funding from the Federal government.

In 2021, the new $85million Central Coast Medical School and Research Institute (CCMSRI) will open at Gosford Hospital.A joint project with the Central Coast Local Health District – and funded by the Federal and NSW State Government – the CCMSRI will, for the first time, allow students studying medicine to complete the full Bachelor of Medicine program on the Central Coast.

The new CCMSRI will strengthen the University’s links with the local health sector. Just last year it celebrated the 10thanniversary of its joint medical program, a unique partnership with the University of New England, Central Coast and Hunter New England Local Health Districts, enabling more than 1,000 practising doctors to support students with hands-on, practical learning.

The community’s campus’

Ourimbah campus is a joint facility, with courses and programs delivered not only by the University of Newcastle, but also by TAFE NSW and Central Coast Community College, which are co-located on site along with NSW Department of Primary Industries, Regional Development Australia, and other government bodies and local businesses.

As well as delivering education and research, the campus also provides a number of outreach services to support the health and wellbeing of the community in oral health, podiatry and psychology.

One such service is the Senior Smiles program which, for more than a decade, has been assisting elderly residents in aged care facilities on the Central Coast with their oral health through student placements, prevention, intervention, treatment and referral pathways. The program has been so successful that in 2017 the University’s School of Health Science received more than half a million dollars from Elderslee Foundation Australia to advance it.

“Ourimbah campus has a very unique community feel,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“We have TAFE NSW, the Central Coast Community College and local businesses based on site, our courses are designed in consultation with industry, and we offer outreach services here. It really is the community’s campus.”

Read feature stories from alumni, students and academics about their time at the University of Newcastle Central Coast campus.

  • University of Newcastle alumna and long-standing academic, Dr Rosalie Bunn, has inspired thousands of Open Foundation students to pursue their educational goals and realise their potential – a path which Dr Bunn took herself. Read more >
  • Third year Food Science and Human Nutrition student Grace Motley jumped at the chance to study at the University of Newcastle when she started her journey into higher education. Read more >
  • When Dr Bill Chivers first stepped onto the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah campus in 2000, he was a fresh-faced, early career researcher who went by ‘Mr’. Read more >
  • Environmentalist Tim Silverwood looks back fondly on his time at the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah campus. The co-founder of Take 3 For The Sea started his degree in 1999 and graduated in 2005, blending his Bachelor of Science with a “bachelor of life”. Read more >

Related news