TAFE students fight back

Rob Long
Adam Curlis

TAFE Organisers

Adult migrant English students protest about the federal government's decision to cut funding to Illawarra TAFE

At Ultimo TAFE, students campaigning to save Ultimo TAFE library announced on 4 May on Facebook, “Great news — Library 2nd Floor saved!”— a victory in one of many student protests across NSW against the funding cuts imposed by federal and state governments.

Ultimo library staff had been informed in November 2016 that TAFE’s corporate staff were taking the second floor of the library for management offices. The second floor is home to primary resource library items, student computers, group study rooms and classrooms.

Outraged that a student space was being taken over for corporate offices without consultation, the students started to campaign and call on management to reverse the decision.

At first, management ignored their complaints but they wouldn’t go away. Then management tried intimidatory tactics but still the students kept campaigning.

Then Paul Williams, Deputy Regional General Manager, TAFE NSW, announced on 2 May at a Student Action Group meeting of about 50 students, teachers and support staff that TAFE NSW Managing Director Jon Black had reconsidered the decision: the second floor of the library was no longer under consideration for use as corporate office space.

The students’ campaign saved this student facility.

In Wollongong on 4 May, adult migrant English students staged a protest about the federal government’s decision to cut funding to Illawarra TAFE and outsource the federal contract to private for profit training company Navitas. Many of these students had to flee war-torn countries and now call Wollongong home. They were concerned that they would lose the TAFE teachers that have provided such a safe and high-quality education facility.

The students marched, chanted and held placards such as “TAFE is home”, “No Navitas, no Navitas” and “We have support at TAFE. We are happy here.”

The students held a meeting with Cunningham MP Sharon Bird, who promised to take their concerns to the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews.

At Granville TAFE on 5 May, welding and metal fabrication students protested about their course being cut without warning from the Granville facility.

The students expressed their outrage at a meeting with NSW Shadow Minister for Skills, Prue Car. Ms Car stated on Facebook, “Wherever I go across the state, I see the real impacts of the NSW government’s assault on TAFE. Halfway through their course, these welding students were told their class was no longer available at Granville even though the skill they’re learning is in shortage across the state.”

Ms Car called on Deputy Premier John Barilaro MP and Minster Adam Marshall MP to give these students back their opportunity to train to get a job.

The Parramatta Sun reported that 17 students were enrolled in the free component of the welding course while others paid up to $13,000 to study.

The federal and state governments’ short-sighted policy to create a vocational education market is failing students. The contestable funding marketplace has resulted in cuts to TAFE funding and NSW students are suffering. Students truly believe that TAFE is too good to lose and they are fighting back.