MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (12:21): It is a point of great pride that this government has rebuilt and united the post secondary school system. Victorians now have access to vocational education and training which is built on quality and integrity, with the foundations firmly laid in the importance of public provision. Universities, TAFEs, industry trainers and Learn Locals are collaborating like never before. It is our shared priority that students of all backgrounds have access to the right education and training that leads to opportunities. Putting people in the community first has underpinned our signature programs.
Free TAFE has been strategic from the beginning in providing the skills for in-demand jobs in areas such as health, community services, construction and agriculture to name a few. To date, 220 000 Victorians have signed up to free TAFE and we have saved them $297 million. I am so proud that free TAFE has empowered more women, mature age students, First Nations people, unemployed people, culturally diverse students and students with a disability to study and pursue a career.
It is this government and this government alone that supports people and industry to achieve success. This is why we established Apprenticeships Victoria, the Victorian Skills Authority and the Office of TAFE Coordination and Delivery. We have delivered Victoria’s first-ever skills plan, which puts the needs of industry, people, the economy and the community on an equal footing. We invest in people, we invest in facilities and we invest in our communities—$3.2 billion since we came to government—unlike those opposite, who closed campuses and stripped opportunity, equity and integrity from the system.