Friday, 27 July 2012

Jewellery Education needs our help

This May the Ballieu government announced funding cuts of $300 million from the Victorian TAFE sector. As a direct result of these funding cuts, TAFE programs across Victoria are in danger of being cut, and in some cases whole TAFEs or TAFE campuses are facing the real possibility of closure. Swinburne has already announced the closure of its Lilydale campus and the end of its TAFE courses in hospitality, leisure, recreation and tourism, resulting in a loss of 240 jobs.

The Victorian TAFE Association has estimated that more than 2000 TAFE teaching and support jobs will be lost across Victoria as a result of the funding cuts, affecting thousands of students. The Victorian TAFE Association website includes a list of course closures already announced in the media (see Item 17 of the document). The list includes a number of arts programs including visual arts, graphic design and furniture design courses.

The cuts come in two areas: firstly, the Ballieu government has drastically reduced funding to many courses, resulting in higher fees and course closures in cases where funding drops below a point that is viable to the TAFE provider. Secondly, the government has eliminated what is known as Full Service Provider payments, which fund the support systems of TAFEs, including libraries, student services, and student counselling. This means these costs too will have to be covered by student fees. An overview of the funding cuts can be found here.

Although some some apprenticeships and other vocational courses are receiving additional funding, creative and design fields such as jewellery programs and visual arts are facing deep cuts. A strong, diverse and committed education sector including both university programs and creative design-based TAFE courses contributes to a strong jewellery community and arts culture in our state. Melbourne is known for its vibrant contemporary jewellery community and innovation in contemporary jewellery and the arts. TAFE courses like the Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Jewellery Design provide pathways to professional practice as a jewellery artist, further study at university, and opportunities in jewellery design and business. TAFE graduates start their own jewellery design businesses, become exhibiting artists, open galleries or jewellery shops, or expand their innovation through further study at university or through higher degrees. A healthy, properly funded education sector provides the foundation for innovation, quality and diversity in the arts. It's been said before, but I'll say it again: when we de-fund education, we de-fund our future.

So what can we do? 

Sign the petition: If you see me in real life, I will have petitions over the next couple of weeks urging the government to retract the funding cuts and commit to proper funding of our TAFE education system. If you are keen to collect signatures on the petition, email to request a petition kit with petition forms, stickers and a pre-paid return envelope. Note that the signatures need to be returned by 14 August in time for the 16 August Rally to Save TAFE.

Attend a Rally to Save TAFE: The next rallies will be held on Thursday 2 August at 12:00 noon at RMIT city campus (Building 1, corner of Bowen Street and Latrobe Street) and on Thursday 16 August at 12:00 noon on the State Library lawn.

Email Premier Ballieu, Treasurer Wells, Skills Minister Hall and your MP. Visit the TAFE4All website to send a message urging the government to reconsider its detrimental decision that is putting TAFEs across the state in jeopardy.

Spread the word: The de-funding of education is an outrage, so let your friends and colleagues know what's happening and ask them to support our TAFE sector. Don't let our jewellery programs and visual arts courses disappear without a fight.

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