TAFE and Asylum Seekers

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by Mary Fall, Campaigns and Communications Manager at the ASRC, THE AUSTRALIAN TAFE TEACHER, AUTUMN 2015, http://bit.ly/1Fk8Lui

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: From TAFE project to Australia’s largest asylum seeker support service.

Today, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is Australia’s largest provider of aid, advocacy and health services to asylum seekers, delivering services and support to over 1500 people at any one time and with an avid social media following of more than 170,000 people. It’s hard to believe that it all began as a TAFE project back in 2001.

A t the time, Kon Karapanagiotidis (pictured above) was teaching community work to groups of TAFE students. Discovering that asylum seekers were living in the community with virtually no financial or health support, he proposed to his students that, as part of a class project, they set up a foodbank for asylum seekers. On June 8, 2001 the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) opened up its Foodbank in a tiny shop in Footscray with a few boxes of food.

Most weeks a couple of hundred people would come in for food and the stores would only last an hour or two. But while the number of asylum seekers steadily grew, so did the number of people dropping off food donations and offering to help in other ways. This groundswell of support particularly grew in August 2001 when the Tampa crisis threw the spotlight on asylum seeker issues. At the time, the then Howard Government refused permission for the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, carrying 438 rescued refugees, to enter Australian waters, providing the catalyst for the asylum seeker policy debate that continues today. Back in Footscray, as more volunteers brought new skills through the doors of the ASRC, the centre was able to offer other services and support to asylum seekers and so the Education and Health programs came into being.

Over the years, the ASRC has continued to grow organically, in line with the needs of its asylum seeker members, and today there are over 20 programs including Foodbank and Material Aid, Counselling, Client Services, Legal Services, Employment and Community and Social Development, as well as a number of social enterprises employing asylum seekers, including ASRC Catering and ASRC Cleaning. Last year, the Education Program provided over 3,500 hours of English classes and assisted over 200 asylum seekers to access government subsidised training including TAFE courses. In Victoria, asylum seekers are able to access Certificate 1 to Certificate 4 courses if referred by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Meanwhile, the Employment Program matches asylum seekers to employers and jobs and is seen as an important step in allowing asylum seekers with work rights to achieve self sufficiency. The Social & Community Development program helps asylum seekers overcome isolation and improves their health and wellbeing through mentoring, social activity and sports and arts program. Last year 100 asylum seekers were involved in mentoring programs and many regularly attended or participated in the music and soccer groups, women’s recreation program and monthly social gatherings.

Early this year, the ASRC took these program offerings to another level, opening the doors of a new world-first Innovation Hub which provides an alternative empowerment model to better support asylum seekers. The new approach recognises that there are multiple barriers to asylum seekers gaining long-term employment that must be tackled holistically — but it also recognises and harnesses the inherent resilience and resourcefulness that asylum seekers have in spades. Through the Innovation Hub, asylum seekers are given the chance to use and improve their existing skills, undertake further training and gain work experience.

The focus is on everything people were before they sought asylum and everything they can be. Asylum seekers can use the resources of the ASRC to tailor a service that meets their needs for employment and education, depending on what they’ve done in the past and what they want to do, and is flexible enough to adapt as their circumstances change and improve. In this way, the ASRC is moving from a welfare model where asylum seekers receive only what they need at the time, to an empowerment model where they can design and shape how they want to socially and economically contribute to Australian society.

From the reception area you can now look directly into the windows of the first building the ASRC first occupied with its foodbank and its few boxes of food. It has moved a long way from a small TAFE project 13 years ago to become an important advocate and promoter of rights and improved outcomes for asylum seekers in Australia.

TAFE – Opportunities & Financial Support

Asylum Seekers and Victims of Human Trafficking in Victoria can access Victorian Government subsidised training places.

  • Must have referral form: Referral to Government Subsidised Training Form – Asylum Seekers
  • Exempt from the citizenship/residency eligibility requirement of the Victorian Training Guarantee
  • Must meet all other eligibility requirements of the Victorian Training Guarantee
  • Be Eligible to complete that qualification as a Government subsidised student.

*National Directory of Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service Providers: http://bit.ly/1A9s7SD

Student Debt up as private VET courses cost four times TAFE

by Natasha Bita, National Education Correspondent,Brisbane TMARCH 16, 2015

PRIVATE training colleges are charging up to four times more for courses than government-run TAFE institutions, inflating the nation’s ballooning bill for student debt.

The cost of some private training courses now rivals that of a quality university degree.

A survey by The Australian shows that students enrolled in a one-year, part-time diploma of salon management — which does not qualify them to work as a hairdresser or beautician — costs $27,880 at the Australasian College in Sydney.

A three-year arts degree at the nearby University of Technology, Sydney, will cost students $18,456, after federal subsidies.

A 30-week diploma of travel and tourism from Martin College costs $16,440 — compared with $29,700 for a three-year bachelor of economics degree from Sydney University.

The Academy of Hypnotic Science­ is advertising a $10,602 dip­loma of hypnotherapy for preg­nancy and childbirth involving 21 days’ study — half the cost of becoming a university-qualified nurse.

The University of Adelaide’s three-year bachelor of nursing degree costs $18,450, while stud­ents pay $25,688 for Deakin University’s four-year bachelor of midwifery degree.

A university teaching degree costs less than twice as much as a “life coach” diploma.

A four-year bachelor of teaching degree (primary) at the University of Sydney costs $24,608, while Estrada College charges $13,085 for a 16-month dip­loma of life coaching.

In all cases, students can borrow the course costs from the federal government and pay them back through the tax system once they earn more than $53,345 a year. If they earn less, students never have to pay the money back and taxpayers carry the debt.

Last year alone, 180,000 stud­ents borrowed $1.6 billion through the student loan scheme to pay for vocational education and training diploma fees in courses inclu­ding hypnotherapy, personal fitness and “energetic healing’’.

Australian Education Union research shows that some private colleges are charging students four times more than government-run TAFE courses for similar courses.

A diploma of business at TAFE NSW, for example, costs $2510, compared with $11,496 at the private Martin College.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has ruled out capping course costs for the VET system.

“Rather than this government attempting to set arbitrary price caps — which is exactly what we are trying to avoid doing in the university sector — we want to make sure consumers have better information about the debt they incur and the quality of the course,’’ Senator Birmingham told The Australian.

He has announced wide-­ranging reforms to the VET sector that will ban private colleges from charging full fees upfront.

Colleges will also be banned from offering “free’’ laptops, iPads, cash or meals to “induce’’ students to sign up for courses, and will no longer be able to offer “fast-track’’ diplomas delivered in a matter of weeks.

The Australian Education Union’s federal TAFE secretary, Pat Forward, called for a halt to VET privatisation.

“In some cases, students are being charged over $30,000 for VET diploma qualifications which are being delivered in months or weeks, rather than the 12-18 months recommended by the Australian Qualifications Framework,’’ she said.

National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea said the high VET fees would set a precedent for the Abbott government’s plan to deregulate the university system.

“This does set a precedent and shows us how the open market gets out of control,’’ she said yesterday.

“When you have deregulation and subsidisation of private providers, it just means they can charge whatever they reckon they can get away with, and it forces all the prices up.’’

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