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Thursday, 25 September 2008
Page: 100


Mr COULTON (12:30 PM) —Today I rise to highlight the importance of TAFE—Technical and Further Education—in New South Wales. There are currently 1.3 million people studying at TAFEs across Australia, and 89 per cent of them study fulltime. TAFE provides a wide variety of qualifications and courses. Also, TAFE has close connections with industry. TAFE is at the intersection between schools, higher education, adult community education and industry.

TAFE is an institution that is very important to regional Australia, particularly in my electorate of Parkes. In Parkes there are two main TAFE institutes. The first is the Western Institute of TAFE. It services an area that covers 50 per cent of New South Wales but has less than five per cent of the population of New South Wales. It has 24 campuses, eight of which are in the Parkes electorate, and it has more than 60 associated campuses. In 2007, the Western Institute had 35,975 course enrolments and delivered 5,291,743 hours of training. In 2007, enrolments at the institute included 2,421 apprenticeships; and, of the institute’s student population, 14.7 per cent were Aboriginal. In 2007, the number of students enrolled in courses at Coonamble was 63; Dubbo, 6,349; Dunedoo 134; Gilgandra, 425; Lightning Ridge, 208; Mudgee, 1,208; Walgett, 347; and Wellington, 619. You can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, that a lot of people in the western part of my electorate are benefiting from being a student at TAFE.

In 2007, the Western Institute was named the Australian Large Training Provider of the Year in the Australian Training Awards. The other TAFE institute in my electorate is the New England Institute of TAFE. It covers 100,000 square kilometres and has 11 campuses—five of which are in the Parkes electorate. Both TAFEs are web enhanced, have online learning and flexible delivery systems and offer vital educational opportunities for my constituents.

I have had quite a bit to do with TAFE over the last couple of years. Before I came to this place, I was chairman of a well-known community learning organisation, the Gwydir Learning Region. It was a partnership between high schools and primary schools in the shire of which I was mayor, as well TAFEs, universities and adult community education centres. The Gwydir Learning Region delivered TAFE courses into an area where there were no institutes or campuses. Through this innovative program, we won the 2006 New South Wales Training Initiative Award, and we came third in Australia for the same award. I know firsthand the importance of TAFE and training. Indeed, in the organisation of which I was mayor up until last year, 97 per cent of our 150 employees have undertaken training up to certificate III. So I am very aware of the importance TAFE to the people of my electorate.

TAFE is under threat. Technical education is going to competitive tendering, and TAFE is having a lot of trouble competing with registered training organisations that do not have the same standards and qualifications for teachers and facilities. The funding model is now 40 per cent from the federal government, 50 per cent from states and 10 per cent from industry, and in regional areas that 10 per cent is very hard to find. I am terribly concerned about the education revolution that we are undertaking. I am not just aiming that at the present government. I think that if I had been in this place under the previous government I might have had some words about the Australian technical colleges, because I think we have a great institution in TAFE that probably needs some help and nurturing, rather than, in places, being duplicated. Education should be delivered to the highest standard, not down to the lowest price. I feel very strongly about this, and I certainly hope that, when we look at the future in terms of our technical needs, TAFE is not overlooked.