Impact of Baillieu Government TAFE cuts on women

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I grieve today for the state of our TAFE system. I grieve for those who have lost their jobs, many of them female staff, and for those who have found their courses cut or their campuses closed, and for those facing unprecedented fee hikes. I grieve for the young people of my electorate, especially young women, who will
be forced to bear the brunt of this government’s deplorable cuts to the once strong and vibrant TAFE system.

I believe, as did the previous government, in the importance of ensuring that all our young people, boys and girls, have access to quality education and training options. We had a plan to provide for the future of all of our young people, boys and girls, and to create jobs.

This government has no plan for either.

I believe that many members opposite had privileged upbringings, but many of the people from my electorate need access to TAFE to make their way in the world and to obtain secure jobs. The parents are not loaded and their children do not have access to affordable local training. Many young people in my electorate will be left behind if they do not get this
access. It is utterly despicable and completely unacceptable.

Recently I heard the United States of America Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, speaking to a group of women and what she said resonated with me. She said:

Because after all, I think as a mother, what we want for each of our children and what we should want for every child is that chance to be all he or she can be. Because talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

So for every child who is not educated, we may be losing a scientist who would solve multi drug-resistant malaria. We may be losing a great activist. We may be losing a great academic. Who knows? But one way for sure to maximise the chance of every society to do even better is to be sure we give women the chance to compete and to demonstrate what they can contribute to us all.

As the extent of the impact of the government’s cuts to TAFE becomes apparent it is very obvious, even to those opposite, that women will be the biggest losers. Mums, daughters, aunts, sisters, girlfriends and women of all ages will be denied the opportunity to fulfil their potential and to have a role in making the community a better, more productive and more prosperous place.

The Victorian TAFE Association has revealed that these cuts will disadvantage women students in TAFE on average twice as much and up to five times more than males. In its analysis, which I am sure those opposite will have seen, the association has discovered that courses popular with women will have their funding cut by up to 85 per cent. This is in stark contrast to apprenticeship courses dominated by men. On average, those courses will only see funding cuts of around 6 per cent. David Williams, the executive director of the Victorian TAFE Association said:

The impact on women of the cuts to TAFE follows oneof the most educationally retrograde decisions by government we have ever seen.

He says further:

Based on 2011 enrolment figures, the cuts to 10 courses popular with women would have an immediate deleterious impact on over 65 000 Victorian women in 2013.

The courses set to be savaged include courses in children’s services, hospitality, retail, business administration and community services. In 2011 there were over 10 500 individuals enrolled in certificate III courses in children’s services and 97 per cent of them were women. One must ask: how many of those women will now be unable to complete their courses? How many women will have their courses cancelled or their contact hours reduced and their fees raised? How many women will be forced to quit studying and lose the opportunity to enter the workforce as a result of these cuts? How many children will not be able to go to child care and be cared for by qualified carers?

These are questions that this government cannot and will not answer.

In fact so alarming are these figures that the Victorian TAFE Association, which I notice has been called a pack of liars by those opposite, has now –The association has been accused of telling lies.

That is what it says in a press release from the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security. The association raised this matter with the office of the Victorian Auditor-General. It is seeking a performance audit by the Auditor-General’s office, and it should. It is really appalling that in 2012 women must continue to face discrimination and be put at such
disadvantage.

It is not only the Victorian TAFE Association that is deeply worried by these cuts.

Local schools, already reeling from the withdrawal of Victorian certificate of applied learning coordination funding, are facing further pain. Recently I was contacted by Roger Hall, who is the school council president of Berwick Secondary College. On behalf of the secondary school education coalition for the outer subregion of the southern metropolitan
region, consisting of school council presidents, Mr Hall invited me to a public meeting to discuss changes to TAFE funding and the Victorian training guarantee. Understanding the importance of this event I came to the house and asked the Minister for Education to attend, because I thought he would surely like to meet the locals and talk to them about the needs of the students, but apparently not.

The minister responded in Parliament:

I am a very popular minister, and I am booked out months in advance, so unfortunately I will be unable to get there, but I have the names of all the school principals involved and I will be sending them a letter.

It would seem that our rock star Minister for Education is just too busy — doing what, I am not too sure, mind you — but the government says, ‘Rest assured; he is going to send you a letter, so you should be very thankful for that, and he’ll tell you all about how the cuts
have to be dealt with.

The meeting was attended by people from Berwick, Koo Wee Rup, Hallam, Fountain Gate, Hampton Park and Gleneagles. The chief executive officer of Chisholm TAFE, Maria Peters, was also in attendance and gave an update on the impact of the cuts on Chisholm. She is a very powerful and very presentable female educator, and she made the comment — indeed she emphasised the fact — that she is deeply disturbed at the impact these TAFE
cuts will have on females.

But I will have more to say on that later.

I turn back to the meeting. Following a lengthy and emotional discussion Roger Hall moved the following motion:

This meeting expresses its deep concerns at the drastic changes to the funding of vocational training and the reduction of access and opportunity for our young people. It expresses its fears at the impact of these cuts on the lives of many young people who will be denied, or will not be able to afford, access to appropriate training. It expresses its fear that these cuts will lead to a drop in school retention and a rise in the number of students who are disengaged from education as well as positive community contributions It calls on the government to act in the best interests of young people and reverse its position for the good of the community.

This motion was immediately seconded and unanimously agreed to.

I have met students from my electorate on this issue. Indeed I went with the Shadow Minister for Education to Hampton Park Secondary College, and we spoke to Vanessa, Brittany and Madison, who told us how they have been forced by this government’s actions to put on hold their plans to study at TAFE and will have to go out and get a job for which they will not be fully qualified in many ways or they will not get the qualifications they wanted. This will be their second choice. They want to be trained — to have a good education — and get a better job. They now feel as though they have been very much let down.

Their principal, Mr David Finnerty, is very concerned that changes to the funding
system and the introduction of five funding bands will severely disadvantage the young women in his school. He fears that many young people will now find that their capacity to afford a course will ultimately decide if they can undertake further education or training. That is just not fair. It is not what our education system should be about. I know this is a fear shared by the morem than 1000 people who have signed the petition in my electorate about these cuts.

Let us briefly have a look at the how these cuts are going to affect the market. The government has now introduced five funding bands, ranging from A through to E. Unfortunately, as was reported in the Australian in May, following the release of this year’s disastrous budget we now see that the bottom band of funding will attract government support of less than $2 per student hour. In fact in many cases it will be as little as $1.50
per student hour, despite the national average being around $12.60 per student hour. Of course those most severely affected by these cuts are once again women, as band E includes courses in hospitality, retail events, customer service and business administration.

Victorian TAFE Association executive director David Williams said that because of these savage cuts female students face an average fee increase of $800 next year at one major metropolitan TAFE institute. They will not be alone, as many if not all TAFEs will be forced to put up fees as the funding shortfall hits. This is an absolute disgrace.

The government has effectively created further barriers to women seeking to upskill, forge a new career path or re-enter the workforce. I believe, as I think does everybody on this side of the house, that all Australians regardless of their gender should have the opportunity to access quality and affordable education and training. I can only conclude that the government does not care about the future of the state, it does not care
about the job prospects of our young people and it certainly does not care about helping young women to access further education or training. Sadly our increasing youth unemployment rate clearly shows that.

Recently the business transition plans submitted by TAFEs to the government were leaked to the media. These plans detail how each institution plans to deal with the budget cuts caused by the government. The Chisholm campuses of Berwick and Cranbourne were not spared.

They too have been forced to take drastic action as a result of losing an astonishing $30 million in funding, which is a huge amount. They will now have to cut over 220 jobs, 610 000 student contact hours and 1500 students in 2013. Courses in general manufacturing, business services, culture, and the recreation and retail sectors will also be cut, and total
tuition fees are forecast to rise by 70 per cent.

This is just another kick in the guts, I must say, for any young person in the Casey municipality who wants to do a course at Chisholm. Already I am getting reports that course quality and training is being reduced.

Speaking of young people in my electorate — and we have many of them; there are lots of teenagers at schools in the Narre Warren South electorate — there is a strong feeling out there that they, especially the girls, are being actively discriminated against by the government through its cuts to TAFE funding. Indeed Nicole Spargo, a year 12 student also from Narre Warren South, said she had been planning to study at TAFE next year but
was now reassessing. She told me:

My plans were to go straight into a course in February of next year, but now with the cuts I have to work and save up even more money to pay for the course.

And:

There is no guarantee that I will get in at the local campuses or even that the course will go ahead next year.

It is completely unacceptable that a wonderful and hardworking young woman like Nicole is now unable to study at a TAFE next year, and there are thousands of young Nicoles across the state who are being discriminated against by this government’s attack on TAFE.

I conclude by again quoting Hillary Clinton, who said:

… when women have the chance to participate in the economic and political lives of their communities, not only do their lives improve, but the lives of their families do as well. Commerce flourishes, instability declines, and you see a general uplifting of societies and nations.

This conservative government is destroying the futures of many women who want to participate in the economy and community of Victoria. We will all be worse off as a result of this exclusion and discrimination.

 I grieve for the women now facing  further barriers to training, education and entering the workforce.

I grieve for all Victorians, who have a government that does not take their future seriously.

I grieve for the future of this state.