The Albanese government’s first budget, in October 2022, announced that all states and territories had committed to an interim one-year National Skills Agreement. This agreement sets out the funding that state and federal governments provide for vocational education. It will deliver 180,000 fee-free TAFE and community-based vocational education places in 2023, with additional fee-free places delivered in 2024. This means there are now 465,000 Free TAFE places funded nationally.
This commitment is welcome – standing in stark contrast to the Morrison government’s deliberate undermining of public TAFEs. However, as the Productivity Commission’s most recent Report on Government Services highlights, Victorian TAFEs are lagging badly behind when it comes to government support. Victoria remains the lowest funded state per hour of VET delivery – $4.25 below the national average – meaning Victorian TAFEs miss out on millions of dollars of much-needed funds every year.
The Andrews government needs to act urgently to increase resources. TAFE funding must increase to cover the actual cost of course delivery so that TAFEs can run the programs and courses that the Victorian community so desperately needs.
AEU members in the TAFE sector and their allies successfully lobbied for changes to remove previous eligibility criteria for Victoria’s Free TAFE courses, allowing those with higher qualification levels wanting to return to study via a training pathway to access fee-free places. This means that teachers in schools and early childhood can now train to teach in TAFE and adult education, and educators in TAFE and Disability can train in other vocational areas.
The federal Albanese government’s announcements on TAFE show that with continued lobbying and action from members, we can achieve systemic improvements that make a real difference to the lives of members and our students.