MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (12:56): It was just over two years ago that our government first announced the free TAFE for priority courses initiative. The initiative was rolled out for its first year in 2019. Everyone on this side of the house backed free TAFE every step of the way, and last week Victorians got to see why. I was delighted to release the free TAFE report card, and the outcomes are incredible. Nearly 40 000 students enrolled in free TAFE. This is almost a doubling of enrolments in these courses compared to 2018. That means a significant pool of Victorians are getting the skills that they need for the jobs that are available.
But more than that, free TAFE has broken down the financial barrier that prevented so many from enrolling in TAFE—a 94 per cent increase in enrolments of students with a disability, a 32 per cent increase in Indigenous Victorians, a 118 per cent increase in women, a 99 per cent increase in people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and a 102 per cent increase in unemployed Victorians. On every measure, free TAFE has been an incredible success.
In reality those opposite just did not support it. But the record stands for itself, and it has been an enormous success. This has been a major Victorian Labor government initiative, because we believe in TAFE. We saved TAFE, and we are working every single day to make it better than it ever was before, and of course we are wanting it to be more and more relevant than before. For example, because of our investment we are in a much better place to respond to and recover from the pandemic. So many free TAFE graduates are already working on the front line. We will always back our TAFEs and stand up against attempts by others that want to just destroy it.