Rebuild with TAFE


06 February 2023

Following National TAFE Day and ahead of the October federal budget, the AEU presented prime minister Anthony Albanese with an open letter signed by 21 organisations representing hundreds of thousands of people, and with signatures of over 1500 TAFE supporters calling for an ongoing commitment to TAFE from the federal government.

It is gratifying that the new federal government has been listening to the urgent need to support TAFE and pledging to champion TAFE as part of the efforts to address the skills shortage crisis Australia is facing. Much of this awareness has come from the voices of members who have been dedicated to letting their political representatives know the value and essential function of TAFE. However, we still have a long way to go to ensure a positive future for TAFE.

The next steps for the Rebuild campaign will ensure the government doesn’t waiver from a commitment to establish guaranteed funding to TAFE in the next budget.

The “idea” of TAFE having some guaranteed funding is being considered by the government, but at present there is a lot of motherhood statements with little detail and no timelines for action. First and foremost, we still need to challenge contestability and ensure that TAFE remains accessible, affordable and properly resourced.

Free TAFE courses are good because this money is committed to TAFE and not private providers, but this announcement does not break down the contestable funding model – in fact, it entrenches it by quarantining only some money from contestability. Contestability remains one of the biggest issues in TAFE funding and this still hasn’t been addressed by governments.

The funding for TAFE needs to be broader and not solely focused on the short-term future, which is what these fee-free course offerings do. While they will help to address the current skills shortage areas, government must work towards a sustainable plan for the future to ensure longevity for high-quality vocational education and that there is no subsequent skills shortage in different areas in a few years’ time.

There also needs to be a commitment to the wrap-around service TAFE provides to ensure learners are successful; things like language, literacy and numeracy support, counselling, library services (with librarians in them), disability teacher consultants, and more. TAFEs have been so drastically underfunded for so long that there is much to catch up and urgent investments needed in teachers, training, facilities, infrastructure and course offerings.

So please continue to sound the alarm and ensure your local state and federal politicians understand that the need to #RebuildwithTAFE remains as urgent, despite the positive announcements of the past couple of months.

“The funding for TAFE needs to be broader and not solely focussed on the short-term future, which is what these fee-free course offerings do.”

By Maxine Sharkey, AEU Federal TAFE Secretary.

This article was originally published in The Australian TAFE Teacher, Summer 2022