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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15506

Ms GRIERSON (9:57 AM) —I would like to use this opportunity to acknowledge the fine work of the Hunter Institute of TAFE, which has campuses in my electorate and indeed in all the Hunter electorates—16 campuses in all, serving 56,000 students. This week the Hunter Institute held an annual awards event. I wish to add my congratulations to Damien O'Neill, who participated in the Certificate 1 Access to Work and Educational Opportunities course and is the winner of the student achievement award. I also congratulate the 12 recipients of staff excellence awards and thank them for their dedication to their students, their profession and the wider community. The industry partnership award winner, Crowne Plaza Newcastle, has made a major contribution to the development and enhancement of education and training at the Hunter Institute. I congratulate the management and staff, well known to me, for their effective partnership with the Hunter Institute in vocational education and training.

This week I was also visited in the House, as many other members were, by organisers from the NSW Teachers Federation, who outlined the many pressures TAFE teachers face today as they are called on to provide flexible models in education and training for students and are also required to service the entrepreneurial and vocational partnerships that reflect a constantly changing work culture. I wish them well with their current campaign to enhance staff conditions and pay.

I would be remiss, though, if I did not remind the House that, in spite of the ever-increasing demand for places in a greater variety of new courses, this government gave no increase at all in the current budget for the TAFE system. Similarly, at a time of high levels of skill shortages in this country, particularly in traditional trade areas, the government failed to initiate much needed reforms to the New Apprenticeship schemes. Newcastle, as a manufacturing centre located in a region where unemployment remains high, is particularly aware of the need for those reforms in apprenticeships. This is a regrettable situation and the people of Newcastle—students, workers and employers—will be the losers.

In concluding, I congratulate the TAFE award winners who set the standards high and acknowledge the outstanding contribution that Hunter Institute of TAFE makes to my electorate and to the entire Hunter region. I also acknowledge the Director of the Hunter Institute of TAFE, Gaye Hart, who recently was presented with a Centenary Medal.