July 31, 2019

We can't afford to give up on TAFE

By Michelle Purdy, Federal TAFE President

Like many members, I had high hopes on Election Day as I handed out how to vote cards in my electorate, believing that this election was the best shot we had at restoring TAFE to its former glory.

While we didn’t get the result we were hoping for, there is no doubt that community support is growing for TAFE. I was heartened by the conversations I had with voters in the lead up to the election and the fact that lots of them had heard about the Stop TAFE Cuts campaign. It’s a real tribute to the hard work of everyone who stepped up and got involved. A huge thank-you to everyone who had conversations and took the time to share your experiences of TAFE and raise awareness of why we need a strong and vibrant TAFE system.

I urge you all not to give up hope now. Our campaign needs to grow and continue until we reach our objectives. Now, it is more critical than ever that we make sure the benefits of TAFE are clear to see.

The unexpected election result means three more years of the Liberal government’s privatization agenda and deliberate underfunding of TAFE. With the number of TAFEs dwindling from 59 TAFEs in 2012 to just 40 today, it is more important than ever that we ramp up our activity.

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training is certainly ramping up its activity. It’s rebranded as the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) to amplify its demands for fully contestable funding - whereby public TAFEs and private registered training organisations would have to compete against each other for all available government funding.

This could mean that programmes that aren’t profitable, but are vital to the local communities, may not get funded. TAFE will lose out while increasing amounts of public money will continue to go directly into the hands of private enterprise and turned into outrageous profits. Too much public money has already been wasted on private-for-profit providers offering courses of untested quality at inflated prices to increase their profits.

As Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work points out in this issue, we need to educate the public that this is not competent economic management. TAFE is too precious to be abandoned to the vagaries of the market.

We face the challenge of convincing the Morrison Government that the public reject this marketization agenda and want government to commit to a publicly funded TAFE system. One that everybody owns and enables everyone in every community the opportunity to access education. Every day we see students transforming their lives thanks to TAFE and everyone has benefited from the social, cultural and economic benefits that TAFE brings to our society.

We will need to continue to grow our campaign to make sure that our voice is heard. We can only achieve this with more support. Speak to your colleagues and encourage them to join the union. Australia’s TAFE system faces a dismal future if we abandon hope now.