Sunday, June 3, 2012

who’s listening?

for Part One - a trade off please see previous post

Part Two - What kind of vocational training should be available?

In theory at least, the TAFE system exists to ensure there is a match between the skills businesses are looking for in their employees, and the skills the unemployed can acquire in order to find work.

The system does provide some excellent training in a number of fields, but it also presents us with choices that need not be a national priority. Some people are interested in aromatherapy, and there are many Australians who use the services of Aromatherapists but, in the larger scheme of government-auspiced training, just how much of a priority is training in this field?

One thing which definitely stinks is the recent axing of the Auslan course at Victoria’s Kangan TAFE.
Auslan is the Australian Sign Language used by our deaf people – the size of the deaf community recently estimated at 6,500 Australians.
This was a two year course – latest cost to students somewhere around the $16,000 mark.
Any person who wants to work as a deaf interpreter must complete a one year diploma in interpreting, on top of the two years and considerable expense involved in first learning the actual language.

Some families have deaf children, and for a number of sound reasons [no pun intended] it’s a good idea for at least one speaking family member to learn Auslan.
Some deaf students need an interpreter to help at school. Some adults develop a profound hearing loss late in life and need to learn Auslan.
As with many other people who don’t have English as a first language, deaf people will occasionally need interpreters to deal with medical or legal issues, and interpreters are pretty well essential at the interview stage if a deaf person is hoping to find a job. In other words, it is a course that should be available somewhere to a lot more than 6,500 Australians.

The terrible thing about the axing of the course is that it was the only full time course available in Australia’s eastern states [i.e. Qld, NSW, Vic and Tas].

It seems Kangan TAFE has been keen to scrap this course for some years, presumably because it’s not very profitable. The CEO of the TAFE, however, has used the Victorian government’s budget decision to significantly reduce TAFE funding as an excuse.
The Victorian government quite reasonably asserts:
  • the state must reduce its debt; and
  • the Federal education minister put the squeeze on the state at the last Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in April; and
  • in the recent federal budget.
In other words, surprise surprise, everyone is pointing the finger at someone else.

A spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Peter Hall said the government would offer subsidies to the Deaf Society of NSW so that it could offer Auslan training in Victoria.

This is a bit of a smokescreen as the Deaf Society does not have the resources to offer full time training in NSW let alone Victoria.
Victoria’s Premier Ted Bailleau has the power to withdraw funding from TAFEs but is silent about the possibility of exerting any influence over how that funding is used – and has no plans to do much about shonky TAFE /RTO sector dealings.

Prime Minister Gillard’s last election speeches were built around two main messages:
Australia should “move forward” [whatever that was supposed to mean]; and
a fair deal for genuine hard-working Australians.

More recently, she reprised her hard-working philosophy to the Australian Trades Union congess, blathering on about her parents and their belief
“They knew that with hard work and with thrift, with effort, that they would get ahead.
If you’d like to read more on this fine sentiment you will find it here.

So, what happens to deafies looking for a job, either now or in the future? Can they, with a belief in hard work, effort and a desire to get ahead, get ahead? Unemployment benefits are currently set at $489.70 a fortnight for a single adult with no dependents. 

This appalling state of affairs is currently based on the notion that most genuine job-seekers will only take 6 to 8 weeks to find a job.

Emerging from this are two, common problems in this country:

  • false economy; and
  • equal opportunity does not apply to people who, through no fault of their own, are unemployed [no matter how skilled or competent].

By false economy I mean long-term social welfare costs; wasted skills and labour; and inevitable dependence on charities whose help is needed elsewhere.

Deafies recently held a rally protesting closure of the course– surely one of the quietest demonstrations ever – but this was overshadowed by the shock announcement that Mowbray College, an ‘ordinary’ private school had – despite it’s share of government subsidies – been obliged to shut it’s doors because it was $18 million in debt.
This was a school which had received $15 million in funding in 2010.

On Friday June 1st the state government announced a $1 million injection of funds so VCE [the last year of High School] students would not be disadvantaged.

I do feel genuinely sorry for them... all of them.

Part Three: free trade between the states and Part Four: hot potato, hot potato


  1. Yes, keep going, I'm furious with all of this mucking about with our kids education and futures.
    Don't forget the Bailieu Govt has cut funding to the VCAL programs in secondary schools which benefit non-academically inclined students as a hands-on learning pathway.

  2. It doesn't matter which government is running our country, it never spends enough on education or health even though both sides always promise to do so.

    1. Promises promises, Diane. Just promises, too many and to too many people.