MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (18:00): I thank everyone for their contributions this evening, albeit there was a lot of transgression, I have got to say, in terms of the contributions. But, leaving that aside, I take that as a compliment because we covered off on so many issues that people had as a result of the bill before us this evening. It has been great to see strong support for the bill from all quarters.
In 2019, I released a statement called The Future of Adult Community Education in Victoria 2020–25. This statement outlines an ambitious reform agenda for adult community education. An emphasis was placed that the Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) board was expected to lead the implementation and achieve the government’s aspirations and goals for community education in this state.
In 2020 an independent review of the operation of the ACFE board focused on the governance arrangements that underpin ACFE, including the roles and responsibilities of the ACFE board and the Department of Education and Training. As part of its recommendations, this review found that outdated provisions in the ACFE board’s governing legislation are significant barriers to effective governance as well as to the achievement of the aspirations and goals expressed in my ministerial statement. The bill therefore implements recommendations of the ACFE board review by removing barriers to effective governance. Passage of these amendments in the bill will lead to improved access to and quality of post-secondary education and training for Victorian adult learners.
One member in the other place spoke about changes that the bill makes in relation to advice the ACFE board receives from regional councils. The same member also asked about the skill set requirements for a person to be appointed to the ACFE board. In response I can confirm that there will be no material changes to the current role of regional councils, and the bill continues to ensure that the ACFE board consults regional councils. As the ACFE board is strategic in nature, it is important that the ACFE board members possess governance rather than management expertise. Management expertise is commonly understood as decision-making with regard to the operation of an organisation—reports on which would be made to the board of directors. This is not relevant when determining membership of the ACFE board. Governance experience is a far more important consideration so that the ACFE board can include members who have had significant experience in overseeing board responsibilities that are both statutory and strategic in nature.
I also can confirm that the Victorian student number data is held by the Victorian student register and is maintained by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority in a secure environment. Access to VSN data is and will continue to be strictly limited to those persons who are authorised by the secretary for certain and limited authorised purposes. The secretary will make guidelines in relation to a range of matters, including who the secretary will consider to be appropriate to be an authorised user and how authorised users should access, use and disclose the VSN in any way that maintains and protects students’ privacy. All authorised users are bound by robust privacy laws to maintain and protect the privacy of individuals whose information is included in the VSN and VSR.
In summary, the bill contains amendments which make important improvements to various aspects of the government’s education and training system, established under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, including: improving the governance arrangements of the ACFE board; removing adult education institutions as a category of providers of adult community and further education; elevating the status of AMES Australia as the primary provider of these services and recognising the significant and unique work that AMES Australia undertakes in the settlement services and adult community education sector for culturally and linguistically diverse Victorian community members; and modernising the provisions around the access, use and disclosure of the VSN. It also clarifies a number of regulatory powers and functions of the Victorian Regulations and Qualifications Authority in relation to registered training organisations and other entities required to comply with child safe standards. It also makes technical and consequential amendments which ensure that a person, body or school registered in respect of a foundation secondary course or foundation secondary qualification is subject to the reportable conduct scheme and the child safe standards.
In relation to a matter that Ms Bath has just raised that I have not heard of before, that is a local constituency issue. I am not aware of that. It would have probably gone to the Minister for Education at the time; I am the Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education and Minister for Agriculture. I am not aware of that, but I would suggest that Ms Bath submit that request to Minister Hutchins, the new Minister for Education, so that she can have a look at what her constituents are seeking.
On that note I thank again the contributors tonight and also all the contributors that we saw in the other house and in particular those that have not necessarily spoken in this debate today but have spent a lot of time via emails and on the phone with my office wanting clarification and getting answers to a number of concerns or issues that have been raised by some of their constituents. I thank them for their interest, and indeed I hope that we do have a very speedy passage of this bill this evening.
Motion agreed to.
Read second time.