Student hostel alarm

REGIONAL students who rely on the Springvale Hostel at New Town are unsure what 2023 will bring with the accommodation facility planning to close in December.

The hostel is popular with Derwent Valley and Central Highland students who want to study in Hobart. A war of words has developed with the operator of more than 30 years saying the Department of Education had decided to close the site down, and the department denying this.

Operator Bob Gilmour said while he was getting close to retire at age 66, he didn’t want the hostel to close and instead would be happy to hand over to another operator if the Education Department adjusted its funding model. “In 2003 I was approached to manage the hostel on behalf of the Education Department as a private enterprise,’’ Mr Gilmour said.

“The model worked well from 2004 to December 2019. “The business was in good shape, we had cash reserved. “Then Covid hit, international students dried up, holiday bookings stopped and lockdown meant students stay ed at home.’’

He said for the business to be viable he needed 50 fee paying students. During lockdown there were only eight. “We still had wages, cooking cleaning to pay and the costs went up and our income dropped. “We were losing money. “We went to the department and they agreed to support us in 2022. “I didn’t make the decision to close. They own the building and the Education Department made the decision to close the building.’’

However, the department denies this, arguing it was Mr Gilmour’s decision, not theirs. A spokesperson said Mr Gilmour had made the decision to close the Springvale Hostel at the end of 2022. “We know that families may be uncertain about the changes for next year. “This is understandable and acknowledged,’’ the spokesperson said. “A dedicated team from the Department of Education has been put in place, with work underway on identifying alternate accommodation options for students and families who need it for next year.’’

Prosser Liberal MLC Jane Howlett who has been working on the issue said the Government was committed to removing as many barriers as possible so that young people could continue to access education. “In particular, it is recognised that having suitable accommodation options available for students is important for our regional families,’’ Ms Howlett said