Protesters at a save TAFE rally in Geelong on October 19 chanted, “No cuts, no second term. We all have a right to learn, learn, learn!”
Almost 200 people took part in the rally. It coincided with the VECCI business convention at the Mercure Hotel in Geelong, which Premier Ted Baillieu was to speak at.
Protesters were angered to learn Baillieu had made his appearance but had left through the back door two hours before the rally began.
Speakers at the rally included Australia Education Union vice-president Gillian Robertson, Geelong Trades Hall secretary Tim Gooden, Victorian division secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union Colin Long, and TAFE students and teachers from the Gordon, Geelong’s local TAFE.
The uncertainty for teaching staff at the Gordon was clear. Full-time teachers, contracted teachers and session teachers all have one thing in common. There is no job security for them next year, and no guarantees of which programs will be running.
This is having an effect on the local economy, not to mention the students.
In a spectacular show of union and community support, members of the local fire brigade (including two trucks), ambulance officers, the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, the Nurses' Federation, the Electrical Trades Union, the Maritime Union of Australia and the International Workers of the World took part in the protest.
Tradespeople working on the renovations of the St John of God hospital next to the conference centre stopped work to support the rally.
Gooden said Baillieu's $300 million a year TAFE cuts would do “irreversible” damage to the state. Robertson and Long said the cuts were “social and economic vandalism”.
Labor opposition leader Daniel Andrews has made no promises or policy plans to restore TAFE funding so far. But even if Labor were elected, once the facilities have been sold off and privatised, the staff sacked and courses cancelled, it would be almost impossible to reverse it.
Geelong campaigners say they will not give up the fight for TAFE any time soon.
Gooden said: “The Gordon has existed in Geelong for 125 years. Ted Baillieu has been elected for one term and is trying to destroy it.” Campaigners are fighting to make sure the Gordon will be here another 125 years.