Campus overhaul call

Tuesday February 12, 2019

Published by The Border Watch

By Sandra Morello


CIVIC, economic and political leaders have called on the State Government to overhaul the TAFE SA Mount Gambier campus amid ongoing concerns over the city’s iconic vocational training institution. 

The fresh concerns come as the TAFE SA begins a multimillion dollar redevelopment of the ageing institution in Mount Gambier to bring it up to modern standards. 

Claims have surfaced TAFE SA is reducing the classroom footprint at the Wireless Road West site and the facility is not responsive to the needs of regional industry. 

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell is pushing for the State Government to implement a regional TAFE board, similar to the new regional health structure being swept in. 

Mr Bell is expected to take to the issue to the floor of State Parliament tomorrow. 

“It is my view that TAFE SA would benefit from a similar model. Decisions that impact on local people should be made at a local level,” the independent MP said. 

If these decisions were not made at the grassroots, Mr Bell argued this would lead to a disconnect with regional community, poorer outcomes and irrelevant delivery of training. 

“In Victoria, the TAFE institutes are relatively autonomous, employ their own staff and have more autonomy when it comes to capital and physical infrastructure,” he said. 

“In effect, they run their own ship.” 

Mr Bell said a board would ensure funding was distributed to training needs and courses that were important to regional industries would continue. 

“I have long campaigned for the decentralisation of government departments and this would be an excellent opportunity,” the Mount Gambier MP said. 

Speaking at a recent council meeting, Grant District Mayor Richard Sage said the classroom footprint was being reduced as part of the redevelopment. 

“They are reinvigorating it out there and millions of dollars is going to be spent, but I’m afraid we will see a loss in class space,” Mr Sage said. 

He claimed some of the buildings would be leased to other entities. 

“Once we lose those areas ... we will never see them come back,” the mayor said. 

Mr Sage said the Mount Gambier TAFE campus needed a new “board, budget and some actual timelines”. 

“We need to get some type of turnaround. I have - along with this council - been pushing for a number of years and things are not getting any better, they are actually getting worse,” Mr Sage claimed. 

“We need to see how we can get this issue back on the radar - we need to look at what our region needs to have.” 

Mr Sage also questioned the feasibility of lecturers going out to teach a handful of people at a work site instead of teaching a larger group of students at the facility. 

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Limestone Coast chief executive officer David Wheaton said there been a “chronic” under funding of TAFE, which had led to skill shortages in regional areas. 

Mr Wheaton revealed the RDA officials had spoken with the State Government over the need for a local TAFE board. 

“A lot of the decision making has ended up in Adelaide, we have spoken to a lot of employers and the organisation is not as responsive as it could be,” Mr Wheaton told the council meeting. 

RDA Limestone Coast chair Peter Gandolfi said the TAFE SA Mount Gambier campus had the opportunity for “centre for excellence”. 

In particular, he said there could be a focus on primary industries.