Students and staff are continuing their campaign to stop $300 million worth of cuts to the Victorian TAFE sector. The cuts are scheduled to come into effect on July 1. At TAFE and dual-sector institutions across the state, the cuts have already begun to take their toll on staff and courses.

Eighty per cent of Victorian TAFE courses face a cut to funding. The first casualties of the cuts were 26 staff at the small Sunraysia Institute of TAFE in the regional town of Mildura, made forcibly redundant in late May. At Victoria University, fifty jobs will be axed and some course fees tripled. At Bendigo TAFE, 120 staff face the chop thanks to $8-9 million in funding cuts.

Course closures across the state will include Victoria’s only print apprenticeship course at RMIT TAFE, and perhaps most disturbingly, the state’s only recognised full-time diploma in Auslan at the Kangan Institute. According to Deaf Victoria, the cuts will exacerbate “a worsening situation of shortage of interpreters”. On May 23, hundreds of Auslan students and supporters staged a protest at Parliament House. Numerous speakers highlighted not only the impact of the cuts on the quality of education, but significantly, the discriminatory nature of cuts that will rob the deaf community of its language.

Other protests of TAFE students and staff were held across the state at RMIT, Geelong, Wangaratta, Warrnambool, Bairnsdale, Traralgon and Shepparton.

The cuts, which represent a deepening of the privatisation of TAFE begun under the previous Labor state government, are the sharp edge of the Liberals’ neo-liberal agenda. Alongside the claim that Victoria can’t afford to fund TAFE or pay teachers, the Baillieu government was able to find $500 million in its latest budget to fund a new private prison.

The mass demonstration at Baillieu’s office on May 10, with AEU and NTEU support, highlighted the campaign’s capacity to mobilise thousands of TAFE students and staff in defence of public education. A recent motion passed by the NTEU Victorian division states that, “waiting until the next election is no solution, especially given that both the major parties support budget cuts in some form.” There is no doubt they are right. Further action will be needed to stop the Liberals’ attacks.

Jimmy Yan

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