Along with some of Australia’s most important cultural and architectural icons, UWS also inherited long-standing educational convictions, particularly the School of Arts/ Mechanics Institute’s tradition of ‘practical education’. E. G. Whitlam’s 1972 promise to found and fund a University in the West gained traction in 1976 when the Wran government was returned to power in NSW, and set about reforming the state’s higher education administration by founding a Higher Education Board (HEB).
The HEB’s first head was Ronald E. Parry, who rapidly became the State’s leading education mandarin, and a promoter of practical education at the highest level. Parry wanted to see more effective and equitable education, and with a significant number of Western Suburbs politicians now in State ministerial roles, his administration emerged at the same time as there was the political will to achieve it.
The Wran government relied on the labor-oriented Western seats and their supporting agencies (such as WSROC), and determined to deliver institutions of significance: the ‘Beds for the West’ campaign which resulted in the building of Westmead Hospital was just one of these. In 1984, when Susan Ryan (Federal Minister for Education) proposed resolving the dire lack of higher education options in Sydney’s West by the establishment of further technical training, Wran and his Education Minister (Rodney Cavalier) rejected the offer and established a Committee of enquiry under Parry to determine the most expeditious way of achieving a university for Western Sydney. Drawing on American models, Parry’s 1985 report (released in 1986) proposed a federated ‘Western Sydney State University’ very similar to the one which eventually emerged in 1989. The Wran government was prepared to defy the Commonwealth's preference for extension of technical and College of Advanced Education (CAE) education in the West, and moved rapidly to legislation - establishing first the University of Western Sydney Advisory Council (1986) and then the Chifley University Interim Council (1987).
For more on this stage of development, see:
Hutchinson, Mark, ‘Presence in the West’: Religious Contributions to the Secular Ideology of an Australian University, Journal of Religious History (forthcoming, June 2014).
Hutchinson, Mark, ‘The University Which never Was: Chifley University as a window on State-Federal Educational Relations, 1986-1988’, History of Education Review, vol. 41, no. 1 (2012), pp.66 - 83.