Six years ago, when my youngest child was 1, I decided to enrol in a TAFE course. It felt like a bold step at the time and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to complete the course. It was going to be four years of part time study and I had to juggle having a baby and two other small children in kindergarten and school. Like many other women, returning to the work force after having children was daunting experience. My confidence was fairly rock bottom. I was extremely grateful to be able to pursue something I had always wanted to, in order to increase my skills and feel I had something more to offer. The fees were reasonable enough for me to reach at a stretch, the college was local and the course tutors were flexible and understanding to my needs.
That has all changed dramatically now. If I was starting out now the fees would be at least double. I already had a degree so apparently I shouldn’t need to train in something else. Things are set to worsen considerably as funding for TAFE is soon to be dramatically reduced and around 80% of courses will be affected. Worse still, courses such s Auslan to train teachers of the deaf are to be cut altogether!
How can this possibly make any sense? Australia is a young country in desperate need of skilled, educated people. We were encouraged to migrate here on the basis that we are skilled and have a young family. And people are often encouraged or even pushed to move to rural areas for the same reasons. The country needs good teachers and nurses which are very female dominated professions. So wouldn’t it make sense to allow mothers to build on their skills in order to return to work? The local TAFE is an extremely valuable resource. I’m not sure I would have got out of the house other than to do kinder duty for several years without it, and believe me that doesn’t do much for your self esteem. When it came to the point where I had to think about going back to the classroom I was scared out of my wits. Because of my TAFE study I have something more to offer. It is women, people in rural areas and those with disabilities who will suffer most.