Truths and half-truths by lindahy


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          Truths and                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Wrong side of the tracks
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The Government’s own On Track data shows why the VET
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 changes are off the rails.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Justin Mullaly deputy vice president,                  increases. While Skills Minister Jacinta Allan’s policy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 secondary                                              guarantees a subsidised place in VET/TAFE to
          When is a debt not a debt? When it’s a loan — according to                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    students under the age of 20, once over the age
          Jacinta Allan. (Just don’t mention the 20% loan fee.) Nic Barnard
          hears an embarrassing performance on ABC radio to open four pages
                                                                                                                                                                                                           Gillian Roberston                     T   HE AEU’s TAFE 4 All campaign has struck a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     chord with secondary teachers by doing what
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the Government has failed to do — inform them
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        of 20 the picture changes dramatically.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Students will be ineligible for any government
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        subsidy from 2011 unless they take a qualification
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 of the implications for their students of the huge     at a higher level than they’ve already achieved.
          of reports and reactions from TAFE campuses and secondary colleges                                                                                                                                                                     fee hikes and other changes to the TAFE system.        (The sole exeption is for basic literacy and
          to fee hikes and privatisation threats.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Secondary teachers are the ones who have           numeracy foundation courses.) They’ll have to pay
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 to advise these students on their options after        full fees which for diplomas can exceed $10,000.

          J ACINTA Allan may have been expecting an easy
            ride when she appeared on Joseph Thomsen’s talk
          show on ABC Goulburn Murray to spruik her skills
                                                                      Thomsen insisted. How much would someone on
                                                                  a concession rate now pay for a diploma course?
                                                                  “Zero!” the Minister squeaked. “The charge is
                                                                                                                             performance as she has toured the state trying
                                                                                                                             to sell the reforms without telling anyone what is
                                                                                                                             actually in them, and underlined why the AEU has
                                                                                                                                                                                      youth attempting a transition into a more stable life.”
                                                                                                                                                                                         Another speaker, Dale Pearce, principal of
                                                                                                                                                                                      Bendigo Senior Secondary College, confirmed how
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Year 12. Yet despite $16 million being spent by
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the Government advertising the changes it was
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 late August before an email belatedly informed
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This has huge implications for students who
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        undertake courses through the VET in Schools
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        program. By completing a certificate at school,
          reforms. Instead, she found a well briefed journo       zero!” Her reasoning? That they could take out a           felt obliged to go round campuses explaining them        secondary teachers had been kept in the dark               secondary principals of the fee increases.             they may find themselves forced to pay exorbitant
          who wouldn’t take no for an answer.                     loan to cover it.                                          to the public.                                           about the reforms. “This discussion has been                   With around 36% of Year 12 completers              fees to access TAFE once they turn 20.
               Allan squirmed as Thomsen pinned her with              In other words, if you can pay for something with          Minister Allan tried to paint debt as giving TAFE    characterised by a lack of information,” he told the       enrolling in TAFE/VET after they leave school,             We have sent a campaign pack to every school
          questions about the fee changes. Was it or wasn’t it    a loan, it’s basically free — which is good news for       students the same great opportunity that university      conference.                                                many of this year’s cohort face fees of $2000,         sub-branch with a flyer summarising the changes
          true that fees for diplomas and advanced diplomas       first time homebuyers if nothing else. Have a new          students have. The sorry reality was laid out by            “Careers advisors have received nothing,                up from $877 since the start of this year.             and a petition which we ask all members to sign
          were rising from $877 to $2,500 by 2012 — and           car while you’re at it.                                    Marilyn Webster, of the Victorian Council of Social      until late yesterday when principals received a fat            Worse, a large percentage would in the past        and pass on to your school community. Email
          concession fees were rising from $55 to $2,500?             What the Minister failed to add was that the           Service, at the AEU’s TAFE 4 All conference.             brochure outlining Government’s position. Most of          have enrolled on a concession basis, paying            me at for more
               First the Skills Minister blustered that the       loans come with a 20% “loan fee” — plus                        It takes a single man eight years to pay off a       the info has come from the AEU.”                           $55 per course. The Brumby Government has              information or to arrange a visit to your school to
          changes were “very complex”. Then she tried to          interest. So a $2000 course will actually cost             HECS debt, she said. Women with children and a              on the basis of Minister Allan’s performance on         abolished concessions for students who enrol in        explain the changes in more detail. ◆
          say it was “incorrect” that the concession rate         $2,400. And anyone unlucky to be paying full               partner take 16 years. And most sole parents never       the Joseph Thomsen show, perhaps that’s for the            diploma and advanced diploma courses — these
          for diplomas was rising from $55 to $2,500 —            course fees could be slugged an extra $2000                pay it off — they pass the debt on to their children.    best. ◆                                                    students too will pay $2000 from January 1, rising
          because charges for basic literacy courses were         (full details at                          Ms Webster called the changes “a great loss for                                                                 to $2,500 in 2012.
          falling.                                                    The exchange summed up the Minister’s woeful           women, migrant and refugee groups and homeless                                                                          As one teacher commented: “We work bloody
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Track records
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 hard to get our students to complete Year 12,           According to the latest on Track data:

          Opportunity goes knocking
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 often with the promise that it will give them more       •	 13,500 Year 12 (or equivalent) students
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 options once they leave school.                             are expected to enter the VET system in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     “But if a student can’t reasonably afford to            2010
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 go to TAFE then many of them simply won’t see            •	 More than 9000 of them are likely to face
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the point in finishing a school qualification. There        higher fees for government-supported
          The scandal over international colleges was the perfect chance for ministers to speak up                                                                                                                                               goes the hope of raising Year 12 retention rates            places
          for our high-quality public TAFE system. So where were they, asks Andrew Ferguson.                                                                                                                                                     and getting kids who are often at risk of becoming       •	 Around 7,500 will be at Certificate IV level
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 disengaged in school to stick around.”                      or above, and so face considerable fee

          H    oW pleasing was it to read two
               of our Victorian TAFE CEos write
          publicly in The Age about the threat to
                                                        If anything highlights the perils of
                                                    opening up the system to the market,
                                                    this has been it. But the response of
                                                                                                   This would put the costs between
                                                                                               private and public providers on a much
                                                                                               more even basis and stop the cherry-
                                                                                                                                                Even these measures may not come
                                                                                                                                            to pass. According to The Australian,
                                                                                                                                            Victorian Skills Minister Jacinta Allan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Marilyn Webster       The Government’s own on Track data, which
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 details the destinations of school-leavers, shows
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 that Year 12 completers who enrol in a diploma
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             increases for government-supported places
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          •	 of those, more than two-thirds are likely to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             enrol at the diploma level or higher where
          the international student market from     government to the recent scandals has      picking of vulnerable courses.               does not want her “rapid audits” of                                                    Dale Pearce   or advanced diploma at TAFE are most likely to be           fees are up 128% (from $877 to $2000)
          shonky private providers and the tepid    been less than overwhelming.                   What is really missing is the loud       these places complicated. Whatever                                                                   low-income earners, in the bottom 25% for socio-            compared to 2009
          defence of that market by state and           Following the ABC’s Four Corners       and proud support of the system our          they are!                                                                                            economic status.                                         •	 Those students going straight into a
          federal governments?                      exposé last month, a delegation was        politicians and officials are charged            Where are Jacinta Allan and                                                                          In Gippsland, over 50% of students who                  diploma are most likely to be in the bottom
              With over 4000 private colleges       sent to India to try to calm concerns      with promoting.                              John Brumby? They should be out                                                                      completed Year 12 went on to enrol in VET, with             quartile of the socio-economic status index
          nationally and more than 1,200 in         about these private colleges and the           In a belated response, Federal           extolling our government-funded, well                                                                similar figures for students from the Shepparton         •	 According to census data, 18% of VET
          Victoria alone, these dodgy providers     racist attacks on students. But as TAFE    Education Minister Julia Gillard             resourced, properly audited institutes                                                               and Bendigo areas. In outer northern and western            students in 2006 already held a diploma or
          undermine the lucrative flow of           CEos Bruce McKenzie and Virginia           announced on August 19 that all              with their market-relevant courses                                                                   Melbourne over 70% of students from some                    above. From now on they’ll pay the full cost
          students to all skills providers, not     Simmons wrote in The Age, “trade           private providers will have to re-register   and qualified teachers with regulated                                                                schools go on to VET.                                       of their course, often $10,000 or more. ◆
          least our properly regulated, publicly    missions, talkfests and public utter-      and be subjected to tighter guidelines       workloads.                                                                                               The changes to the system go beyond basic fee
          accountable and audited TAFE              ances will not solve the problem.”         by the end of next year. There is no             Instead they are silently working
          institutes.                                   That said, rather than calling for     indication that they will address the        away to undermine our public TAFE
              In three years, private colleges      soft loans, better accommodation and       fundamental problems of untraceable          system by throwing its funding open
          have increased enrolments by 400%,        transport concessions for international    owners, lies and distortions from touts      to the kind of providers who have
          some of them by hooking vulnerable        students, our CEos would do better to      and agents, under- or even unqualified       brought the system into disrepute.
          international students at huge cost       strengthen the advantage they have by      teachers, excessive teaching hours,              It is time our leaders stood up for
          into schemes that have more to do         insisting on fully registering teachers    under-delivery of contracted hours and       good quality education provision, espe-
          with immigration than skills training     and properly policed qualifications for    the mandatory passing of anyone who          cially when it is under their noses. ◆
          and education.                            all who want to teach in the VET sector.   has bought a place.

          12     aeu news | september 2009                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       13

                                                                                                                                                                                                     No way back to work
           Tempers flare
                                                                                                                                                                                                     Full fees as high as $10,000 will stop mature people returning to work and
                                                                                                                                                                                                     leave many facing decades on welfare, writes TAFE teacher Margie Fry.

                                                                   as sausages sizzle
                                                                                                                                                                                                     o    PEN Day at our college was really
                                                                                                                                                                                                          tough this year.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        I met several mature-aged potential
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 With $12,000 in fees, it doesn’t make
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 financial sense to get skilled up for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 work. She said she felt betrayed by the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           not helping them to return to work.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               These people are often living
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           in challenging circumstances, on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       private college. It cost them $5000,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       which was a lot then. She didn’t want
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       to do it, but did it to make them happy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                     students who were upset and angry to                        Brumby Government.                        Centrelink payments, and are expected           I remembered those dodgy
                                                                                                                                                                                                     hear that they would be hit with over                           These changes to the TAFE system      to take on a debt of $12,000 to             “colleges” in the 80s, and asked the
                                                                                                                                                                                                     $10,000 in fees to retrain for work.                        will have a devastating impact on         skill up because they have a prior          student to bring in any paperwork
           Students were in the dark about the TAFE fee hikes until the AEU hit the road to                                                                                                             one woman had done an IT course                          mature unemployed people (the             qualification.                              she had. It turned out that although
           tell them. Rachel Power reports on an angry response on campus in Bendigo.                                                                                                                20 years ago and worked in the field
                                                                                                                                                                                                     until she had children. For the past
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 over-40s), people who have been
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 parenting, carers, injured and many
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               My experience of this student group
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           is that they often have low self-efficacy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       the staff at her former college had
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       constantly referred to their diploma,
                                                                                                                                                                                                     10 years she has been parenting and                         others.                                   beliefs; they start studying expecting      her qualification said that she had only

          T    HE TAFE 4 All campaign took its message on
               the road last month, running sausage sizzles on
          campuses across Victoria to inform students about
                                                                   giant mobile billboard, Robertson’s main message
                                                                   to students and staff was that there should be no
                                                                   barrier between any Victorian and access to TAFE.
                                                                                                                                         that’s if you can afford it.”
                                                                                                                                             Ian Irvine, professional writing tutor, said cutbacks
                                                                                                                                         in country areas like Bendigo, meant losing services
                                                                                                                                                                                                     found her qualifications and experience
                                                                                                                                                                                                     are out of date now she’s back in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                     job market.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I know this because I work with
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 them everyday.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I meet people who have worked in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           not to succeed and that their life will
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           not improve.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I had a student (a sole parent who
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       done “a course in...”.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           We managed to get her a $750
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       place. But it is unbelievable that even
          the changes that are hitting the system.                 “For a region like Bendigo, mums and dads have had for an entire region.                                                             She was thinking about doing a                           industries which have gone offshore,      had finally left a domestic violence        full-fee diplomas disqualify you from
               At Bendigo, it found students already fired up      the certainty that they’ll be able to get their kids into                 “Culture destruction, that’s what it comes down         diploma in community welfare and was                        or have changed drastically due to        situation) who started doing a Diploma      a subsidised place under these new
          about Brumby’s reforms.                                                                                                                      to with the impact on arts courses,”          dumbfounded when I broke the news                           technology. Some of them have qualifi-    of Alcohol and other Drugs Work after       rules.
               Many of them told the AEU they                                                                                                          he said. “RMIT, for example, one of the       to her. She expects to earn $18 an                          cations from the 1970s and 80s which      volunteering, and was strongly encour-          I love my job because I see the
          chose TAFE to avoid the debt that                                                                                                            leaders in this country, is under real        hour working in community services.                         may be useful in generic terms, but are   aged to qualify.                            amazing life-changing experience of
          university would saddle them with.                                                                                                           threat. So, ‘City of Literature’ — but                                                                                                                  After a lot of soul-searching and       education and the opportunities it
               Cheryl is retraining following                                                                                                          only when it’s privatised.”                                                                                                                         really struggling to believe she could      brings. This blanket discrimination
          an injury that means she can no                                                                                                                   Irvine is concerned about the                                                                                                                  do it — and was worthy — she                against anyone with a prior qualifica-
          longer do her old job, but she is                                                                                                            “incredible inequalities” built into the                                                                                                            enrolled.                                   tion is devastating for people who are
          loath to take on a loan that she                                                                                                             new system. “A lot of mothers who have                                                                                                                  It was then she was told that it was    trying to participate in the workforce.
          might not pay off in her lifetime.                                                                                                           qualifications that are out of date are                                                                                                             going to cost $12,000. More than 20             Shame on the Brumby
          “Any time you want to take on                                                                                                                still being classified by the system as                                                                                                             years ago, her parents had paid for         Government. ◆
          something new, you’ll risk passing                                                                                                           having current qualifications, so they will                                                                                                         her to do a secretarial “diploma” at a
          a debt on to your children. I just                                                                                                           be facing full fees.
          won’t do it,” she said.                                                                                                                           “From a Labor government, it’s quite
               Young single mother and profes-
          sional writing student Amanda
          Mann is now facing the struggle to
                                                                                                                                                       profound, how much they’ve shifted away
                                                                                                                                                       from access and equality. on the one
                                                                                                                                                       hand, Kevin Rudd is … talking about the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Join us
          cover her own fees on top of the                                                                                                             way neo-liberalism has destroyed whole
          costs of her children’s education.                                                                                                           nations and how it’s led to the global
          She sees the government reforms                                                                                                              economic collapse; and yet at the same        BRIT professional writing students speaking out against reforms.
          as a cost-shifting exercise.                                                                                                                 time we have a state Labor government
               “We’re now paying doubly
          — through our taxes and then
                                                                                                                                                       in Victoria introducing basic neo-liberal
                                                                                                                                                       economic policy.”                             Bendigo voices
          through our fees. The material                                                                                                                    Mining student Justine believes the      “Whatever happened to Labor for the people?”                                                                                    
          costs alone are scary enough.”                                                                                                               Government’s reforms risk barring                                             — Julia Baird, professional writing student
               With VCAL a central provision
          at Bendigo secondary colleges,
                                                                                                                                                       people from accessing their dream jobs,
                                                                                                                                                       or entering the workforce at the level to
                                                                                                                                                                                                     “What you learn is going to be defined by what you can afford.”                                                                  —
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  — Amanda Mann, professional writing student
          around 68% of post-school enrol-                                                                                                             which they aspire.                            “The thing that bothers me most is that if they’ve done previous
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               search for TAFE4All
          ments in the region are for TAFE                                                                                                                  “I think it’s very important to have     training and they decide they’d like a career change, then they’re
          diplomas, which will soon attract                                                                                                            the job that you’re born to have,” she        ineligible for any funding.”
          fees of $2,500, rising from $877.                                                                                                            said. “But if you’re trying to live as                                                            — Stacy, mining tutor
               “And they get one chance,”                                                                                                              a student and you’ve paid your fees           “It’s going to be international students who’ll be able to afford it and
          said AEU TAFE vice president                                                               Gillian Robertson speaks to students and staff    and you’re not working, because it’s a        they’ll be the ones with all the jobs. Where does that leave us?”
          Gillian Robertson. “After that it’ll                                                                                                         full-time course, how do you live? It’s                                                       — Justine, mining student
          be full fees. That’s going to be a                                                                                                           so expensive being a student at the
          real barrier, especially for those who are financially   a TAFE — and they’ll be able to afford it.                            moment already.”
          disadvantaged.”                                             “Now they’re increasing fees, abolishing the                           To specialise in chemistry and become a metal-
               Also being abolished are concession rates of $55    concession and also putting in a new rule that you                    lurgist, as Justine had planned, would require further
          for those with a health care card. “Those people will    can only get government assistance to enrol if you                    study at the same level. “That would be a very
          go from paying $55 to $2,500. Where the hell are         are upskilling,” she told BRIT students.                              expensive option now. There are lots of things I want
          they going to get that sort of money?”                      “The line is that from now on all Victorians will                  to study in the future, and to make it less affordable
               Standing in front of the TAFE 4 All campaign’s      get a training place. But what they don’t say is:                     — that’s a big problem for me.” ◆

          14     aeu news | september 2009                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      15

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