Members of the Lismore community voiced their opposition to Federal Budget measures at a regional Bust the Budget rally on July 6.
Federation TAFE Organiser Sharryn Usher detailed the new HECS-style loan scheme the Federal Government has offered as support for rising fees: a tax on future earnings of TAFE students.
In order to access federal funding, states have signed up to reforms in the vocational education and training sector. Those attending the rally were given an insight into what TAFE would look like after the introduction of the State Government’s privatisation policy Smart and Skilled in 2015: increased fees, reduction of courses being offered and loss of hundreds of TAFE positions will all impact on the viability of local colleges. The fact that an Art course at Lismore TAFE now attracted a fee of $1200 was met with outrage from those gathered.
Community members were encouraged to become active in the campaign to save TAFE by meeting with local MPs, using social media or writing to local newspapers.
Country Organiser Marty Wheatley outlined the deception of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, whose destruction of the Gonski schools funding model after 2017 will leave 13 per cent of public schools in NSW falling short of the minimum resource standard required to adequately meet student need. This resonated deeply with those gathered, who agreed with the need to prioritise education in any Federal Budget.
Many echoed their dismay of the falsely touted ‘Budget crisis’ that has been used as the reason for the unfair and unwarranted cuts to Gonski funding.
The crowd felt betrayed by local MP Kevin Hogan who previously espoused his support for the full six-year implementation of the Gonski reforms.
Other speakers included Mayor Jenny Dowell, MLC John Kaye, prospective state and federal candidates, and NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association branch secretary Gil Wilson.
Given the 7000 people in Lismore and the 4000 people in Byron Bay who participated in March in March, Bust the Budget in Lismore again showed the level of community support for the Gonski schools funding model and anger against cuts to TAFE.