Notre Dame celebrates 25 years in Broome

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Current and former University of Notre Dame Australia Broome campus students Joseph Curran, Sari Darcy and Steph Brown prepare to celebrate the centre's 25th anniversary.
Camera IconCurrent and former University of Notre Dame Australia Broome campus students Joseph Curran, Sari Darcy and Steph Brown prepare to celebrate the centre's 25th anniversary. Credit: Jakeb Waddell.

In 1994, a decision was made to open a tertiary institute in the State’s North as a tool for reconciliation and educational opportunities for locals.

It was then that the University of Notre Dame Australia’s Broome campus was born.

Students and staff from the past and present are tonight gathering to celebrate the campus’ 25th year and reflect on its rich history of ups and downs.

More than two decades ago, then-Broome bishop John Jobst had a vision to establish a campus in the Kimberley town to bridge a cultural gap and offer Aboriginal people a place to learn and advance their careers without having to leave home.

In early years after its inception, student numbers ranged between five and 15 and the university was used as a feature of the Study Abroad Program, whereby Catholic institutes in the United States would travel to the Kimberley town to experience an in-depth exposure to indigenous history and culture.

Its focus moved to offering degree programs in nursing and teaching, much like other UNDA campuses in Fremantle and Sydney, before shifting again in 2012 to vocational training and graduate courses.

A cloud of uncertainty was thrown over its future when a number of courses were cut in 2013, but it has since evolved into vibrant learning and community hub with more than 200 students enrolled across a variety of subjects, primarily nursing, Aboriginal health and teaching.

To this day, it remains the only university campus in Northern WA.

Campus minister Tom Gannon said the fact it had lived to see its 25th year was proof of how important it was.

“A place that has made it when everyone said it wouldn’t, to me that is very special and its future is looking bright as well,” he said.

UNDA pro vice chancellor Professor Selma Alliex said the Broome campus was a crucial catalyst for the development of the entire university.

“It continues to fulfil its mission of being the reconciliation campus of UNDA.

Ms Alliex said the future looked bright with plans to expand.

“As of next year around 10 architecture students from Fremantle are expected on the campus with a view to studying projects in the Broome area.

A celebratory dinner will be held at the campus, after a public lecture on the role of reconciliation in wellbeing.

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