Charles Sturt University to phase out creative industry courses beginning 2021 amid ongoing subject cuts and job losses

KEEP IT CREATIVE: Ava Castellaro and Jhi Rayner are part of a team calling for the creative industries courses not to be phased out from the Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University. Picture: Emma Hillier
KEEP IT CREATIVE: Ava Castellaro and Jhi Rayner are part of a team calling for the creative industries courses not to be phased out from the Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University. Picture: Emma Hillier

A petition to save the creative industries courses at the Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University has begun to circulate online.

Current and alumni students in CSU's Acting Union began the petition on Friday, in response to changes the university has made to the degree.

The course is one of many facing removal or restructure under the university's 'sustainable futures' program, which aims to address its $80 million loss in revenue and predicted $49.5 million deficit by mid-2021.

The petition has nearly garnered 500 signatures, with organisers saying they are hoping it will reach 2000 in the next week.

"They [the university] might take notice then," said Ava Castellaro, 21, who is entering her third year in the course at CSU.

"We just want to be able to give the same opportunities to people in the regional area. The opportunities in Wagga are endless, creative arts just thrive here.

"It would be a massive loss to the community and to graduating high school students if they don't have this option."

Jhi Raynor, 25, recently completed his masters in stage and screen acting, following the completion of his bachelor degree. Both he did through CSU in Wagga.

As one of the instigators of the online petition, he told The Daily Advertiser he was appalled to witness the changes and in some cases, phasing out of the acting, production, animation and design subjects.

"These are great courses, some excellent achievements have come out of them," he said.

Without the creative industries subjects in Wagga, Mr Raynor said, he fears students will be forced out of the region.

"Studying here gave me a greater appreciation for regional life," he said.

"It's not about chasing the lights of the city, I didn't have to uproot my life to study and I've even been able to start up my own theatre company in Wagga which I wouldn't have done."

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Mr Raynor's theatre company employs an almost exclusive team of five CSU alumnus and one current masters student.

Ms Castellaro will bare the brunt of the decision to phase out the acting specialisation. Going into her third and final year next year, she was planning to continue on to the masters course at CSU.

"I was going to do a masters in teaching in directing, but I'll have to go somewhere else now," Ms Castellaro said.

"With the amount of course cuts at every uni at the moment, it'll be hard to find what I want.

"I would have preferred to stay in Wagga, it's close to home for me, but if I don't have the course I want here, I'll have to go somewhere else."

In July, the university announced it would no longer offer separate specialties in the creative industries course.

Instead, from next year would begin offering a single communications and creative industries course with options available for the major.

The reason for the change was said to be low student intake, but Dr Dominique Sweeney - who is a lecturer in the acting course - has consistently questioned the popularity metric by which the subjects have been judged.

"Our course will be dissolved, essentially. There will be no intake of first years," Dr Sweeney said.

"Right now [in the third year cohort] I have 10 students, there are about 20 film and TV students and then about the same in animation, design and photography.

"When we're working together, which we often do, there's usually 35 to 40 students in the room."

It is the collaborative nature of the creative industries courses that Mr Raynor believes will be at greatest risk as the phasing out begins next year.

"A lot of unis don't offer the chance for different disciples to work together in the same way that CSU did," Mr Raynor said.

"As soon as you lose one course, you lose that hands-on learning opportunity that students in the film and TV [subject] get when their working with the stage and screen students [for example]."

The Daily Advertiser provided Charles Sturt University with the opportunity to respond the the petition more than 24 hours before publication. The university failed to deliver a response by close-of-business on Tuesday.

This story Students, staff protest loss of CSU creative courses first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.