Vic TAFE cuts will make students & community suffer
Victorian TAFE teacher and student Tashara Roberts released the open letter below on May 29.
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Dear Mr Baillieu,
I would like to tell you my story. I am of English, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. I had an abusive childhood; my parents divorced when I was about 12 years old and we had moved around a lot until I was about 15. I went to 5 different primary schools and 2 different high schools.
Then my mother, a single mother of 4 children, finally settled in Broadmeadows. I did not do so well at school and got below average grades, I went through a period of rebellion and suffered from mental illness for most of my life.
After leaving school I worked mainly in hospitality and retail, low educated industries. I worked for Woolworths for many years and worked my way up to a management position. I was promoted several times over the years, the most recent position being a department manager for a produce department, where among other things, I was expected to lift between 500 kilograms — 1500 kilograms per day, a job I nonetheless loved.
Then one night I was assaulted and robbed during a night out with friends and was left for dead. As a result I hurt my shoulder and was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Because of this I was not able to return to my job for some time and sunk deeper into depression.
When my doctor said I could finally return to work, she said I could only work 15 hours per week and could not use my shoulder. Having a strong work ethic and feeling myself sink deeper into depression, I decided to go to TAFE to get out of the house.
I started attending Kangan Institute (KI) in Broadmeadows, studying business administration in order to brush up on my computer skills and hopefully get myself a new career. I was really afraid at first. I had not studied in years and the thought of going back as a mature age student was really daunting.
But having something to focus on helped and gave me hope that I could turn my life around. I surprised myself by getting really good marks. It seemed that the reason I did so poorly in high school may have been their teaching methods, because I was kicking goals at TAFE. My teachers were very supportive and inspiring and whilst watching them I decided that I too wanted to become a TAFE teacher, so I could also help students like myself.
Whilst studying business I was required to complete a work experience component and was fortunate enough to gain a work experience position in the ICT department at KI, which to my delight lead to permanent part time employment, I was now responsible for coordinating the work placement program for the ICT students, a job that I also grew to love. I finally started to believe, at 32 years of age, that you can in fact be anything you set your mind to.
I have now worked for Kangan Institute for two years and have completed an indigenous traineeship studying business, whilst also studying IT, TESOL and Teaching and Assessment part time and at the same time working a second job so I could also look after my elderly godfather.
Earlier this month, after a lot of hard work, I was lucky enough to gain a full time ongoing teaching position with Kangan Institute, teaching traineeships and youth education. I was so happy. I had finally made it. I was now in a position where I could help students like me and really make a difference in the community. And yes I am still studying part time in the TAFE sector.
Then the TAFE cuts were announced. The course I had planned to study next year has been cut, the Advanced Diploma in IT Networking, because it, like many courses, has become unviable. Kangan Institute will cut 205 jobs by December and this may include mine. The TAFE is just trying to do what it can to survive, but it’s the students like me that will suffer. It is a sad time for Victoria and is only going to continue to get worse.
I am disgusted with the Baillieu government over the unfolding disaster for TAFE. The TAFE system and the teachers that are employed in it saved my life and many others like me.
The Baillieu government has turned its back on Victorian TAFE students, teachers, support staff and communities in its state budget.
Instead of showing its support for the public TAFE system, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Victorians into work and driven our state’s economy, the government has devastated TAFE by slashing $300 million from institute budgets.
The new cuts announced in the budget will see courses fold, campuses close, student opportunities reduced, enrolment fees increase, learning support services axed, local economies damaged, thousands of teachers and support staff sacked and the possible collapse of local TAFE institutes.
Victorian people own the public TAFE system and the government is meant to be its caretaker.
I am severely disappointed with the state government’s stance on these issues and the fact that it seems that the TAFE system is no longer deemed to be an integral part of today’s education system. I would very much like to have my letter tabled in parliament and will be sending this to anyone that I think will listen.