I rise to make a contribution on the South West Institute of TAFE’s annual report 2014, which was tabled last sitting week. It is fair to say that it has been a tough few years for South West Institute of TAFE, as it has been for every other TAFE in this state. This sector has operated under duress because the previous government did very little to support it, not only in terms of cuts to funding but also in every other aspect of the operation of our TAFE system.
In 2014 South West TAFE returned a net operating deficit of $8 billion which, as stated on page 9 of the report:
… is largely due to a $9.3 million reduction in revenue as a result of the decrease in government-funded contributions in 2014.
In 2013 South West TAFE reported a net operating deficit of $4.36 million, which was due to the Liberal-Nationals coalition government’s cuts of $2.8 million in government-funded contributions that year. This represents a cut of government funding of more than $11 million over a two-year period, leaving this TAFE in a position where it had no choice but to sack staff, increase fees and of course shut down courses altogether.
On page 21 of the 2013 report it states that South West TAFE received a total of 11 679 enrolments, delivering a total number of 2.98 million student contact hours, the highest in its history. However, at the end of the 2014 calendar year, with a cut of $9.3 million in government contributions, page 20 of the report documents that the total number of enrolments at South West TAFE had reduced by more than 2000 to 9538, with the number of student contact hours falling by an extraordinary 1.2 million to 1.79 million contact hours. This sharp fall in student contact hours from 2013 to 2014 represents a decrease of over 40 per cent.
As well as denying young people the opportunity to attend TAFE, the previous government’s cuts to the TAFE sector resulted in a number of highly valued staff losing their jobs. In 2013 the total number of full-time equivalent staff was just under 260. However, as stated on page 21 of the report, in 2014 that figure decreased to 210, meaning that 40 staff members lost their jobs in the space of one year.
South West TAFE is the largest provider of vocational education and training services in south-western Victoria, and it plays a critical role in the education and training of young people in the south-west. But it also plays a major role in terms of our older workers and retrenched workers. It has campuses in Warrnambool, Portland and Hamilton, and has a highly skilled, unified staff body. I would argue that it has one of the best staff bodies in the entire TAFE sector.
However, it is clear from the substantial student contact hour and enrolment figure decreases that are decimating Victoria’s TAFE system that the previous Liberal government has robbed thousands upon thousands of young Victorians in the south-west of an opportunity to improve their lives through education and skill attainment. It is little wonder that youth unemployment levels in the south-west have consistently been above 20 per cent, which is among the worst not just in this state but in this country. That is why Labor promised at the 2014 state election to restore state government funding to TAFE through the Andrews government’s $320 million TAFE Rescue Fund. That is exactly what we are doing, and that is exactly what was demonstrated in the state budget package yesterday.
I am very pleased to be part of an Andrews government that is making sure we restore TAFE to where it should be. We also have a minister who is working day and night to make sure that children, young people and older people get the opportunity they deserve to attain skills and education in the state.