TAFE in Bendigo back in a funding row as elections approach

FEDERAL Labor claims a policy of directing two-thirds of government VET funding towards TAFE will result in more teachers, more courses and lower fees at TAFE in Bendigo.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters discussed the announcement on Tuesday, saying it would decrease government funding for private training providers.

The Bendigo Kangan Institute has faced significant issues since its merger, including its appearance before the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission and recent claims that teachers and staff are overworked.

The IBAC matters were centred on Kangan Institute.

Ms Chesters said some of the issues affecting TAFE in Bendigo would be resolved with an increase in federal funding directed to the states.

“By increasing federal funding, by directing it to the TAFEs, it means that the TAFE will have those resources to hire more administration and support staff,” she said.

“A Shorten Labor government will work with our state governments and we will say to them: ‘If you want federal funding, two-thirds of it must go back into our public TAFEs’.”

Victoria’s training sector was effectively privatised in 2008, under Labor, when students were given the ability to choose courses from any VET provider.

As competition to TAFE increased and funding was steadily cut, enrolments fell and the number of courses offered at regional TAFE campuses – including Bendigo – was reduced.

TAFE funding played a heavy role in the 2014 state election in Bendigo, and resulted in Labor promising a $7.8 million agricultural centre at the Charleston Road campus while the Coalition promised a $67 million nursing and allied health training centre.

The merger between Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute was budgeted to cost $100 million in 2014.

Ms Chesters said the merger was not the most desired outcome for Bendigo, but it was the new reality.

“I think a lot of people are asking that question, I personally have always preferred a Bendigo standalone TAFE,” she said.

“We’re not in that situation now. We’re in a merged model. That’s something I know that the state government is working through.

“We want to see well-funded, publicly-supported TAFEs here in our regional areas.”

TAFEs across Australia have been in turmoil in recent years after some states followed the Victorian model of increasing competition in the training sector.

In South Australia, 14 of 16 TAFE courses failed a federal audit and there are demands for a compensation scheme for affected students.

Rising course fees have also resulted in falling enrolments in most states.

Assistant minister for vocational education and skills Karen Andrews said Labor was running “an outrageous scare campaign” on TAFE that attempted to cover their mistakes of the past.

“In 2012, the previous Labor government committed the Commonwealth to funding a five-ear grand plan for VET that provided no funding for TAFE and forced them into increased competition for government funding, which led to TAFE losing a significant share of vocational education students,” she said.

“Labor’s cuts to employer incentives also resulted in a dramatic decline in apprentice and trainee numbers throughout Australia, including Bendigo.

“The Turnbull government is tripling the amount of federal funding allocated for skills and training through out $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund to create an extra 300,000 apprentices over the next four years with a focus on regional areas like Bendigo.”


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