University taps into region’s unlimited potential

A bold economic plan to turbocharge Western Sydney’s economy includes tight collaboration between governments, industries and academia and leverages the region’s new airport as a springboard into a booming future. Based on wide-ranging research, Western Sydney University’s long-range economic blue­print draws on extensive con­sultation across the region.

The Unlimited Potential economic plan documents Western Sydney’s strengths – the region has the third-largest city economy in Australia and above-average rates of population growth and cultural diversity. Western Sydney now exceeds the national average of higher education qualifications.

Western Sydney University Chancellor Professor Jennifer Westacott AO says the people of Western Sydney have the will and the energy to take giant leaps into the future to grow industries and advance skills. The region has the potential to become a bustling economic powerhouse, a hub for sustainable agribusiness, logistics, supply chain management and the technological industries of the ­future, all linked to the booming economies of South-East Asia by the new Western Sydney International Airport, due to open in 2026.

“We see Western Sydney as the frontier where new forms of value will be created, where there is an existing manufacturing base that can be upskilled, where technology can be upgraded, where we can tap into the world’s biggest supply chains in things like additive printing, semi-conducting, and sections of the defence and space industries,” Westacott says.

“There is a prime opportunity to unleash the agribusiness potential of Western Sydney via the new 24/7 airport.”

The Unlimited Potential plan outlines transformational leaps forward; including future industries capturing key global markets such as in advanced manufacturing, space, defence, aerospace, medical technologies, renewable energy, and semi-conducting; future skills ensuring the people of Western Sydney have access to the skills, education, reskilling and retraining they need for the high-paying, in-demand jobs of the ­future; and future communities providing greater equity and closer alignment between community and economic aspirations.

Westacott says a peak convening group including all the interested parties would be able to drive the implementation of the plan with a common shared vision and sense of purpose. “It’s getting people to coalesce around some very precise ideas for change and then co-ordinating into the future,” she says.

Key priorities in the plan include the NSW state government partnering with all 13 local government areas to develop a co-ordinated strategy to attract large-scale domestic and international investment; a plan to connect the gaps in the public transport system and extend Western Sydney Airport Metro to the north, south and east; state and federal government collaboration to deliver practical incentives for reskilling; the recalibration of qualification recognition; and comprehensive ­support for university-TAFE co-operation.

WSU Bankstown City campus. Photo: Sally Tsoutas
WSU Bankstown City campus. Photo: Sally Tsoutas

Other important elements of the plan include multi-faceted community engagement, boosting social infrastructure and ensuring equitable access to childcare, schools and hospitals. Westacott says both sides of politics have already invested heavily in Western Sydney’s infrastructure and the new airport, which is set to open in 2026, will ensure this focus on the region continues.

“There is a really strong dedication to driving better outcomes for people in Western Sydney,” she says.

“The 24/7 airport will be a huge catalyst for economic activity. It will be a game-changer for Western Sydney because it will unlock so much economic potential.”

Australia’s first new airport in a century will be a fully digitised operation and a catalyst for industry expansion, directly linking the global city of Western Sydney to markets in the fast-growing markets of South East Asia, with potential for booming trade with nations such as Vietnam and Indonesia providing a deeper and more resilient economy for the region.

Western Sydney University chancellor Jennifer Westacott is leading the charge to power the region’s skills and educational growth. Photo: Sally Tsoutas
Western Sydney University chancellor Jennifer Westacott is leading the charge to power the region’s skills and educational growth. Photo: Sally Tsoutas

Western Sydney University’s Unlimited Potential economic plan notes the new airport opens opportunities for agribusiness growth in the production, processing and international distribution of sustainable, high-quality fresh produce and pre-prepared food. Other key industries enabled and accelerated by the airport include advanced manufacturing, specialising in advanced materials and composites, as well as 3-D printing, robotics, and automation. The region has all the necessary attributes to become a defence, space, and aerospace hub with available greenfield sites close to brand new state-of-the-art transport.

At the same time, Western Sydney has a rich cultural tapestry, home to residents born in more than 170 nations, with more than half speaking a second language. The region’s ties to the rest of the world are direct, familial, linguistic and cultural – a priceless advantage in boosting global trade and connections.

No other location in Australia has the unique combination of assets needed to become the nation’s new international economic gateway. “What’s really going to drive Western Sydney are the elements of this plan,” Westacott says. “The new jobs, the new industries, the skilling of people to attract investment and the driving of that sense of community and placemaking.”

Projects include the construction of the world’s most modern city, the Bradfield City Centre, along with the Aerotropolis, and the further expansion of transport networks. These initiatives are already driving the region’s substantial economic and social transformation, unlocking value and innovation and connecting Western Sydney with global supply chains.

Western Sydney is in a prime position to take advantage of massive changes now sweeping the world, including the growth of Asian super-economies on Australia’s doorstep.

A projected Asian middle class of 3.5 billion people by the end of the decade will have massive consumption power, according to the Unlimited Potential plan. Commercial opportunities have followed looming climate change and consequent net-zero targets as well as the tectonic shifts in global supply chains driven by digitisation and advancing technology.

Westacott says the carefully calibrated Unlimited Potential plan was developed to bring the people of Western Sydney together with a common set of objectives. Action will begin with a series of roundtable meetings linking all interested parties to agree on plans and implementation.

“The University has this real convening power,” she says. “It’s seen as a big driver of economic uplift, of social uplift; it’s a beacon for many people in Western Sydney. If there’s one institution that has its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in Western Sydney, it’s the University.”

The Australian