TAFE campus under threat

Bendigo TAFE’s Castlemaine campus looks set to be closed or drastically diminished, according to leaked documents obtained by Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards.
Nanjing Night Net

Ms Edwards said the leaked transition plan documents, which had been lodged with a State Government panel following the $300 million budget cuts to TAFEs across Victoria, revealed a planned ‘sell-out’ of the Castlemaine TAFE campus.

She said the documents were extraordinary.

“The leaked documents say that Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE (BRIT) has advised it needs to close the Castlemaine campus and to continue to deliver VCAL and other youth-related programs through another rented space,” Ms Edwards said.

BRIT rents its present home in Templeton Street, Castlemaine from Mount Alexander Shire Council.

But reeling from a $9 million cut to its 2012/13 budget, the rent is obviously beyond its means and BRIT has now been forced into a corner, says Ms Edwards.

“As a consequence of the cuts, they now have to re-think the delivery of courses to regional campuses such as Castlemaine.

“The problem is that there is a severe shortage of community buildings available for rental in Castlemaine – community groups are screaming for space – so BRIT is going to find it very difficult to find a space that is affordable and appropriate.”

Ms Edwards slammed Higher Education and Skills Minister, Peter Hall, who she said was responsible for “ticking off all of the TAFE cuts in the State Budget”.

“Peter Hall is a former Castlemaine boy himself and he should be ashamed of himself. He should be ashamed that not only is his National Party ripping the guts out of TAFE but he is also ripping the heart out of his home town and regional communities across Victoria.”

Bendigo TAFE chief executive officer Maria Simpson said she was unable to comment on the TAFE transition plan having not seen the cabinet-in-confidence document.

“Our position as submitted is that we retain a presence in all areas and we will continue to deliver services where we currently operate, including Castlemaine,” Ms Simpson said.

A government spokesman said the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development received the last of the detailed transition proposals from TAFEs on Tuesday.

He said the government had not yet received an evaluation from the TAFE Reform Panel, led by Ken Latta.

“Once the TAFE Reform Panel has provided its comprehensive evaluation, the government will be in a position to consider these matters in detail,” he said.

“No response to any particular proposal has been made by the government; speculation to the contrary is at the very least premature.”

The spokesman said the government was investing an additional $1 billion over four years in training.

“The Coalition Government is delivering the largest investment in training by any government in Victoria’s history and it has also increased funding for all apprenticeships and in other skill-shortage areas.

“Importantly, we are focusing this record investment on training that will enable young Victorians to start a career at the end of their course.”

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