Students rally at the Hunter Street TAFE campus.

Joint action to stop cuts

Kathy Nicholson and Rob Long
TAFE Organisers

Federation worked with the Community and Public Sector Union to bring the Stop TAFE Cuts campaign to the North Coast and the Hunter last month.

The North Coast region is experiencing tough economic times and students are already really struggling to meet TAFE costs before the State Government’s Smart and Skilled privatisation policy makes TAFE even less affordable. TAFE job and course cuts are already having a devastating impact on students, communities and teachers. Campus manager and Outreach consultant job cuts have damaged critical community links.

Federation’s Stop TAFE Cuts campaign van stopped at Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Trenayr, Casino, Lismore and Kingscliff, culminating with a public forum in Ballina.

Rallies were well attended by students, community members and teachers. Federation members committed to calling on their local members to ask for support for TAFE.

The campaign tour coincided with visits from Greens MLC John Kaye who is proposing the TAFE Changes Moratorium Bill in the NSW Parliament to prevent the so-called “Smart and Skilled” reforms from decimating public vocational education in NSW. (The bill is also to be supported by Labor.)

On February 12 Federation members at Gosford TAFE informed Mr Kaye of the need to stop TAFE cuts including the loss of mathematics and metal fabrication at Gosford through redundancy. Teachers expressed concerns about hours being shaved from courses due to budget cuts. They are concerned these cuts will have negative consequences for student completions and education delivery.

A student rally at the Hunter Street TAFE campus’s art school in Newcastle heard passionate speeches about cuts to all State Government funding for TAFE fine arts courses and the introduction of full fees for art students. These decisions have resulted in no students being able to enrol in Fine Arts Certificate III at the art school.

Speakers included John Kaye, Kevin Heys (TAFE Community Alliance) and Shane Jobberns (Community and Public Sector Union).

The TAFE Hunter Street Art School remains vibrant and high quality, but the teachers, students and community called on Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to restore funding to ensure the next generation of artists are supported to gain nationally accredited qualifications.

The community forum at Newcastle Community Arts Centre was hosted by Greens Newcastle Councillor Michael Osborne. Speakers included John Kaye and Kevin Heys plus TAFE teachers and Margaret McLoughlin-Fullick, a Newcastle TAFE support staff for science who has been made redundant. Margaret gave a passionate speech about TAFE as a second chance education opportunity, and the importance of science education in the Hunter and across Australia.

The Stop TAFE Cuts campaign will continue to demand funding for high quality public adult education. Join the campaign at www.stoptafecuts.com.au.

Almost identical

The Greens’ Save TAFE Bill, to be listed in Parliament, is almost identical to the freeze TAFE fees online community campaign run by the Nationals in 2008.

In 2008 Andrew Stoner introduced the TAFE (Freezing of Fees) Bill 2007. The object of that bill was to freeze fees for TAFE at 2007 levels.

Stop TAFE Cuts campaign

The campaign is calling on the NSW Government to end the privatisation of TAFE and to:
• restore TAFE funding by reversing massive budget cuts
• stop rising fees and job losses
• freeze the O’Farrell Government’s so-called Smart and Skilled “reforms”.