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Thousands protest against Victorian TAFE funding cuts
17/08/2012 - Thousands of Victorians clogged central Melbourne on Thursday to rally against the Baillieu government's $300 million in cuts to the TAFE sector. Carl Dickens
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TAFE teachers, students and support staff from across Victoria waved banners denouncing "Ted Failyou" and chanted "save TAFE, sack Ted", as they marched from the State Library to Parliament House on Thursday.
Boos and cries of "shame" rippled though the crowd — which police estimated at 2000 people — as the Australian Education Union's state president Mary Bluett described the cuts as "an act of economic vandalism".
Bluett said their message was clear: "Don't touch our TAFE, don't deny our students the future they deserve".
The union estimates 2000 staff will be made redundant as a result of the funding cuts to TAFE programs, in which 365,000 Victorians are currently enrolled.
But National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Colin Long told the crowd up to 10,000 jobs could go once support and contract staff were accounted for.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews collected a petition bearing more than 7000 signatures from the protesters, and vowed to hand it to Premier Ted Baillieu.
"At a time of unemployment being a real challenge ... now's not the time to be abandoning the skills and the vocational education and training that really is such an important key to a productive future for so many Victorians," Andrews told reporters.
Swinburne University of Technology and RMIT University have said they'll have to cut hundreds of jobs and axe courses after losing tens of millions from their TAFE budgets.
Student Ben Lawson said he doesn't know how he'll finish his accounting and management course at Swinburne's Lilydale campus, which is closing next year in the wake of the cuts.
Despite holding a banner reading "RIP Lilydale Education", Lawson believes the government could bow to pressure, rethink its TAFE funding and save the campus "if we get enough people behind us, definitely".
Baillieu did not back down, saying the vocational education system the government had inherited from Labor was unsustainable.
"Enrolments exploded in courses that were cheap to deliver, profitable for providers but did not deliver on jobs," he told parliament on Thursday.
"The rest of Australia is looking to Victoria to get the vocational training system right here so they get it right as well."
Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall said the government had dedicated a record $1.2 billion of annual funding on training subsidies.
The reforms he said, were essential and "designed to save the system from collapse".
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