Wednesday, 26 May 2021 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Page 5607 – 5609
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (12:23): Today, I would also like to talk to the member for Mount Gambier’s motion regarding regional TAFE. For far too long, governments of both persuasions have fully understood the great importance of regional TAFE locations and facilities. Our regional people always seem to fit in with the metropolitan advisers’ recommendations, and I mean this with great sincerity.
For our regional people, for many years it appears to have been the notion that these facilities have to break even, and on many occasions they have to produce a profit, which then goes back into general revenue. We all must remember that regional people do not have the great luxury of public transport going past their homes, nor do regional people have the luxury of the same opportunity as metropolitan people who have to secure the relevant certificates in the various categories employers require for positions that are advertised.
I have heard it all before: let’s make training the best we can by providing the best facilities, the best equipment and the best tutors. To do this, we have to have mass enrolments, which makes the expenditure of funds for these facilities meet the financial requirements. We must remember where all royalties come from to this government, to any government—where most of our food is produced and where all the requirements come from for the manufacture of many of our staple diets, including bread and meat and other commodities. They all come from the regions, but successive governments have centralised the best teaching facilities—all in Adelaide—and expect people who need to get the required certificates to come to Adelaide. What for? To satisfy the decision to centralise the teaching facilities.
Not everyone can afford to pay for accommodation during their training period. Not everyone can afford the extra food away from their homes. Not everyone, particularly those who may be looking to get extra training to get a better paying job, can afford to pay the above costs and also the cost of wear and tear on their vehicles and the cost of fuel, which I might add is more stable in regional areas and more volatile in the city.
I have also heard of various courses not progressing, as the required number of students is not met, which, according to the financial people, needs to be met to meet the costs involved with that training. I have mentioned to many people across the regions and at TAFE, ‘If you don’t have the required numbers at your particular location, why don’t you look at other sites that may also not have the required numbers to provide that course and between the two or three different sites use the technology that we have today—for example, Skype or Zoom?’
However, there are many courses where students may need to have hands on. The member for Mount Gambier and others have mentioned the issue that certain trades have to have their hands on and cannot do it via Zoom. If that is the case, and it is the training that businesses are looking for, then the government of the day needs to provide these people with suitable training for those industries and not have the person away for two or three weeks at extra cost, not to mention the emotional impact on their families.
I ask: do we charge primary school children to be educated? Do we charge secondary students to achieve their SACE? The answers are, no, we do not. Do we say to the smaller schools across our regions that if they do not have the sufficient number of students in a particular year of education that we will not teach that particular year in that school? Again, the answer is no. I ask the question to those involved: why do we do this to the people in our regional locations when they may not have the numbers to make it sustainable? We all know we need to have the qualifications to achieve the requirements of the everchanging world we are in at the moment. If we do not allow our regional people to get those requirements, then these regional people will not be able to better themselves, nor will they be able to contribute to the future direction of our state and country.
There are many regional people who may be in an occupation with a lower skill and who want to improve their opportunities. It is absolutely critical for productivity and future employment for young regional people to acquire workforce skills that employers want. There are many regional people who may also have had their previous employment impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; some of these jobs may not come back and people may need retraining to get further employment.
As mentioned by the member for Mount Gambier, are we supplying training for those jobs that are emerging in various locations? The issue is we have to bring it back to the regional locations. The regional boards and the regional facilities know exactly what is happening in the regions and they can be advised by the people in the regions who actually need it. I know there are certain jobs where the training may have to come to Adelaide, but there are a lot of jobs where the training can be done in the regions. In my particular area, we have lots of jobs in the social justice area, aged care, the NDIS and so on. The member for Whyalla indicated hairdressing. We have that opportunity in Port Pirie and I do not want to lose that either.
It has been stated to me over many years that country children do not have the ability to achieve the same as metropolitan children. I question this and say to students whenever I am visiting the various schools across my electorate, ‘If you want to do something and you are passionate about it, have a shot at it. If the door opens, put your foot in it and see where it leads you. If you want to do something, don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot do it. Believe in yourself and ask many questions.’ If someone asked me, ‘What if I don’t succeed in that particular decision?’, my answer to that would be, ‘Get up and walk again.’
In closing, I think it is critical that governments look at their role in supporting people who may be at the bottom of the queue and who potentially suffer inequity to get improvement in their lives. Regional people are very hardworking and very passionate about what they have out there, but what they do not want to do is to have to come down to the city. Our employers need those people to be trained on the job, not away in the city.
We have locations out there, but there is no public transport, so the issue is: how do those people get to their regional locations? That is the other issue we have: there is no public transport coming into those locations. They have to do that training and get their certificate III, II, IV, or whatever it may be, to keep their job and to keep their Centrelink going. We have to really start looking at the whole operation of education and further training across all regional South Australia. Years ago, Port Pirie had a massive facility, a big campus, but over the years it has deteriorated, and I blame both sides. There have been fewer and fewer courses coming into the facility. Just recently, in the last 12 months, some of TAFE’s operations were relocated to one side of the building. My information is that it was to save rental or payment to DPTI that was managing it. This is some time ago.
We now have non-government facilities—education and other office staff—going into a training facility. I think that gives the opportunity for any government to then say, ‘We can’t do any more courses here because we don’t have any more room.’ We need to use these facilities out there.
The member for Mount Gambier has indicated that he has a great facility down there that is not fully utilised. We have a great facility at Port Pirie. The Port Pirie campus is one of the biggest in South Australia but it is not fully utilised. We are now using some of that facility for non-government agencies. What is happening is that they are coming away from commercial rentals in the city itself and into government facilities, which is therefore impacting not only on the opportunities for training facilities there but also there is a financial loss for the commercial facilities out in the community. Certainly, I wholeheartedly agree with the member for Mount Gambier’s notice of motion and give it 100 per cent support