More than 100 people rallied in Footscray in Melbourne’s western suburbs on October 11 to protest against the Victorian government's $300 million dollar cuts to the TAFE system. The rally was organised by community group “Friends of Victoria University”. Protesters included university staff, students and teachers and members of maritime, construction, textile, nursing and other unions as well as people from the wider community.
Victoria University (VU) is the major TAFE provider in the western suburbs and is severely affected by the budget cuts. Projected to lose $40 million in funding, the university is cutting about 100 teaching positions and a raft of courses.
National Tertiary Education Union Victoria secretary Colin Long told the crowd that TAFE was vital to the community. He said the cuts were a “direct attack on working class people, migrants and refugees. We should not stand for it.”
VU TAFE teacher and Australian Education Union member Margarita Windisch said the campaign to save TAFE was essentially about the kind of society we want to have. “TAFE is about the right to public education and an inclusive society that gives everybody a chance,” she said. “I have worked in a private college previously where the right of the owner's profit overrides the right of students to an education and the right of staff to descent working conditions.”
Peter Mum, a former TAFE student and refugee from Sudan, told the rally about his difficult journey to be enrolled in a Bachelor of Youth Work, his “dream course”. He said: “I didn’t do too well at high school and TAFE helped me develop my English skills and generally to communicate well.
“Thanks to TAFE, I'm now a role model in my community, doing work placement at Foundation House, helping other migrants.” Mum said many people in his community were desperate to find jobs and TAFE was a vital part in their English and skills development.
Rally organiser Dave Kerin urged the trade union movement and the community to get involved in the campaign to save TAFE and support upcoming events and actions.
[Friends of Victoria University have organised a public forum about the save TAFE campaign at 6:30pm, October 17, in the Reception Room, Maribyrnong City Council, cnr Hyde & Napier Sts, Footscray. For more details go to FriendsofVU on Facebook.]