TAFE cuts ‘face slap’

STATE Government cuts to TAFE funding have been described as a “slap in the face” to the Wellington community.

Wellington Shire Council was told the changes would lead to a 20 per cent drop in funding to local training provider Advance TAFE, before some councillors vented their anger at the cuts in the State Budget.

The government subsidy rate will be reduced significantly for about 80 per cent of Advance TAFE courses.

Advance TAFE chief executive Peter Heilbuth said the changes would have a significant impact on what courses and services would be offered as well as on staffing levels.

“We will not be able to offer . . . the range of support services we’ve offered to our students in the past and people come to rely on from their public provider, services such as counselling, library support, study support, careers advice, disability support,” he said.

“There are 20 per cent of courses which will see funding increases, in the traditional trades areas, apprenticeships particularly. We are obviously thankful for that, but approximately only 22 per cent of our business is in traditional trades.”

Outreach services offered by Advance TAFE at Heyfield and Yarram could also be under threat by the funding cut.

Mr Heilbuth alluded to some potential good news, as the TAFE had made it through to the final round of applications for Federal Government education infrastructure funding. He said the State Government had indicated it would provide funding should the TAFE receive the Federal funding.

“We should know more about that in the second half of this year,” Mr Heilbuth said.

“That will be a critical new campus for us in the context of Sale and the existing regional campus, which is eight kilometres out of town, but also in terms of consolidating infrastructure as a result of budget changes.”

On Tuesday night, Wellington Shire Council voted to write to local State MPs, expressing its disappointment with the budget.

The only opposition to the motion came from Jane Hildebrant, who said it was “too weak” in response to cuts which were “unfair, stupid and unconscionable”.

“I think we should be taking a stronger stand than simply writing to the government, expressing our disappointment,” she said.

“I felt more than disappointment, I actually felt quite angry about it. It’s really a slap in the face to our community and everything we have been working for in terms of raising the education bar in our community.”

Cr Hildebrant said there was correlation between education and socio-economic prosperity.

“Our young people deserve the same opportunities as their city cousins. They have a human right to the same opportunity and should not be forced to move to the city to further their education,” she said.

“We pay the same taxes, we deserve the same services.”

Cr Leo O’Brien said east Gippsland, with such a low retention rate in tertiary education, would be one of the areas most affected by the cuts.

“This has cut really hard in terms of this council’s vision for education in this area is going forward over the next few years. We saw Advance TAFE, as the opportunity to provide those services that we currently didn’t have in our community.”

Council was also dissatisfied with the lack of funding for a new Sale police station, Maffra hospital upgrades, V/Line and public transport.