Bracks joins alliance to grow jobs in the west

Steve Bracks. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

Building a new Footscray Hospital on Victoria University’s Footscray Park campus is one of the centrepieces of an ambitious plan to bring 25,000 new jobs to Melbourne’s west.

Former Victorian premier Mr Steve Bracks is chairing a new alliance that is seeking to create thousands of new jobs by transforming Footscray, Sunshine and Werribee into major employment centres.

The West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance (WoMEDA), launched on Wednesday, is pushing for greater state government investment in the rapidly growing region.

Mr Bracks said  the alliance has a strategy to build on the area’s existing businesses and industry strengths while targetting job and skills growth towards expanding industries such as health and education.

Mr Bracks told Star Weekly that bringing the west up to the same employment and participation levels as the rest of Melbourne would add 25,000 workers and $3 billion to the state’s economy.

“We can help do this by investing in health and education, that would help significantly in creating jobs in the area.”

A new alliance has been formed to boost jobs in the west.
A new alliance has been formed to boost jobs in the west.

Mr Bracks said Footscray has potential to build on existing arts and creative industries, while Werribee has strengths in transport logistics and education.

He singled out Sunshine as the logical centre of the west and perfectly positioned to become “the new Parramatta”.

Specifics of the strategy include developing a new hospital co-located at Victoria University’s Footscray Park.

The 2017/18 state budget is providing $50 million to develop a business case and commence design work for the construction of the new hospital, as well as exploring options for suitable nearby sites and purchasing land if required.

Three sites for the rebuilt Footscray Hospital are still under consideration, including the VU campus option, but a final decision is yet to be confirmed.

“WoMEDA believes that it co-location with Victoria University would create the opportunity for a major health precinct which would have profound impact on the community,”Mr Bracks said.

Modelling by Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies also suggests it would create about 2000 new jobs for the west.

WoMEDA deputy chair, VU vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins, said a new state-of- the-art Footscray Hospital on the campus would create further opportunities for a major precinct development.

“It would mean creating a world class asset in Footscray, built around an employment and jobs cluster and the synergies between community health, private health and R&D in Health, Sport and Active Living, which Victoria University excels in.”

Western Health chief executive Russell Harrison welcomed the potential option to have Footscray Hospital rebuilt alongside Victoria University as part of a health hub for Footscray.

“We are pleased to see innovative thinking around how best to integrate a new Footscray Hospital within the broader community and we are confident this will apply regardless of which site is ultimately selected,” he said.

“The new hospital will be a key piece of infrastructure in the community as well as an essential health facility and it is important to consider how we can achieve the best possible outcome. An enormous amount of work is going into taking all factors into consideration.”