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Thousands protest TAFE budget cuts

Thousands marched through Melbourne on Thursday to protest funding cuts that could shut down TAFE courses and campuses for good. Diane Leow reports.

TAFE budget cuts could lead to many job losses, campus closures, and more. Photo: Diane Leow

Thousands of TAFE supporters marched from the State Library to Parliament House on Thursday afternoon to protest against budget cuts implemented by the Baillieu government.

Nearly $300 million in grants to 18 Victorian TAFE institutes were cut from the state budget in May.

An estimated 1,500 staff could lose their positions and hundreds of courses are poised to be shut down as a result.

Victoria University international student Beatrice Hope is worried about how the budget cuts will affect her financial situation.

The Diploma of Community Services student had already been working to support herself through her course prior to the cuts.

“I have to think for next year and anticipate higher fees, and I don’t really know how I’m going to make it…Maybe at some point I have to return back to Mauritius,” she said.

Beatrice Hope (fourth from left), pictured here with friends, works to support herself. She is worried about further increases in TAFE fees. Photo: Diane Leow

TAFE campuses may also have to undergo restructuring because of the funding cuts..

A Diploma of Theatre Arts student at Swinburne University, Jordan Carter, said TAFE’s Prahran campus and theatre may be forced to close down.

“They say we can do things online, but because we are acting and performing, we really need to be together,” she said.

“We are in the arts, we don’t have a lot of options.”

Thousands showed their support for TAFE institutions on Thursday afternoon in Melbourne. Photo: Diane Leow

But a spokesman for Victoria’s Higher Education and Skills Minister, James Martin, said the government had allocated $1 billion over the next four years for the state’s training system.

He said most of the money would go towards supporting courses in areas that made a positive contribution to the Victorian economy.

“The government is increasing subsidies in these important areas, in which TAFEs traditionally have a very strong market share, while reducing subsidies in areas of over supply or that don’t necessarily lead to positive employment outcomes, such as fitness training and many lifestyle courses,” he said.

But TAFE supporters at the rally did not support this view.

Ted Ryan, 68, who enrolled in a TAFE course two years ago, said the measure of a society is based on the quality of its education.

“I think it’s important, even at my age, that we support the education system,” he said.

“I think without the funds, many of the people in society would not get the kind of education they deserve.”

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