TAFE

The Victorian Labor government’s final budget before the November state election is strong on spending — for health, education and public transport, but unfortunately also for toll roads and law and order.

Tertiary students are doing it tough. Yet the Coalition would have you believe we have it easy. High — and getting higher — course fees, job insecurity and accommodation costs are all adding to students’ anxieties.

During the early days of his campaign to be US president, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders wondered if the crowds that he saw on the street were headed to a baseball game, only to be told: “Actually they are on the way to hear you”.

This story illustrates how the Sanders message of free education, affordable health care, a $15 minimum wage, taxing the mega-rich and support for renewable energy has taken off.

Young Americans — the millennials — facing unpayable student debts, unaffordable health care, low wages and climate change inaction, are flocking to his campaign.

A “Hands off TAFE” day of action to stop the further privatisation of the TAFE system in NSW was held on October 12.

The day of action, called by Greens NSW and supported by teachers, students and community members, involved protest actions outside TAFE colleges and in shopping centres in Sydney and regional towns across NSW.

The actions mobilised public opposition to the state government’s plans to privatise more than one-third of TAFEs, and the loss of teaching and support jobs, the reduction in contact hours, the cutting of courses and increases in course fees.

Students rallied across the country on August 19 to protest education minister Christopher Pyne's third attempt to introduce a fee deregulation bill.

Tony Abbott’s government has twice failed to pass fee deregulation, which could allow fees in excess of $100,000 for students. The bill has not yet been put for a third time, but Pyne is determined to pass it.

More than 80 people rallied at the Sydney University protest, called by the National Union of Students, to oppose deregulation, defend current degrees and oppose all course and job cuts.

Vocational education has become one of the fastest growing markets in Australia. There are more than 5000 private providers; half receive government funding and many accrue enormous profits.

This huge rise in private providers has made it impossible for the regulatory system to adequately police them, so there is little guarantee of the quality of courses.

But federal and state governments have embraced private providers' “user-pays” ideology rather than commit to free, high-quality public education for all as a human right.

A meeting was held in Geelong on April 30 for students to discuss and plan action against the continued cuts to public sector education.

University, TAFE and High School students were invited. At this meeting, the Student Action Collective (SAC) was formed and a list of immediate demands, mid-term and long-term goals were developed.

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.

A prime opportunity for the TAFE campaign to give voice to community opposition to the TAFE cuts came on September 6. Victoria's Upper House of parliament was sitting in Bendigo and its Lower House was at the University of Ballarat.

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