THE Coalition would put $3.3 million into new biomedical science and nursing labs at the Mildura campus of La Trobe Univeristy if re-elected at next Saturday’s federal election.

In partnership with La Trobe, the entire $5.8 million project would enable a new biomedical science degree and it was hoped to increase the number of nursing students by about 20 per cent.

Member for Mallee Anne Webster and Regional Education Minister Bridget McKenzie this week made the election promise.

Dr Webster said having a biomed “wet lab” in Mildura would lead to more nurses, doctors and allied health staff in the region and improved delivery of sustainable health care.

La Trobe University Vice Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the university had a “big vision” for turning Mildura into a significant centre for medical, allied health and nursing, in training, research and clinical practice.

Prof Dewar said the biomedical lab would help with this vision, while the new facilities for nursing would significantly increase the capacity to train “much needed” nurses for the regional workforce.

“The long term aspiration is to expand our rural medical training pathway − which we currently offer in Wodonga and Bendigo − here in Mildura,” he said.

“That means it will be possible for Mallee kids to start and finish their medical training in regional Victoria.”

Ms McKenzie said the project would attract new students to the region.

Asked what was being done to make Mildura an attractive place for 18 and 19-year-old students to want to stay, Dr Webster said cost savings would be one consideration.

“The costs involved for families in heading off to Adelaide or Melbourne or Bendigo are really quite large, so for local families to be able to have kids study nursing here, I think is incredibly important,” she said.

Ms McKenzie said there were benefits for young people already from the area being able to stay home.

“Often people come home to play netball and football while they are away studying,” she said.

“This way you get to stay with your family, tour friends, your part time job, your social connections and being able to be part of a community you’ve grown up in, without having that social and economic dislocation that can come when you’re having to move away from your home to pursue your goals.”

— By MICHAEL DIFABRIZIO