The minister charged with overseeing the state’s vocational education and training (VET) provider hasn’t ruled out the closure of more Illawarra TAFE campuses.
Eight months after the Dapto TAFE campus was shut for good – and handed over to the NSW Police Force for use as an active armed offender training site – a cloud remains over the future of other sites.
In particular, fears have been raised about the longevity of the Wollongong West campus – a site NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) organiser Adam Curlis said was “most definitely at risk”.
“Falling student numbers and teachers receiving VRs [voluntary redundancies] … means there isn’t a future for this campus,” Mr Curlis said.
“The only section here [at Wollongong West] that is really doing well is the hair and beauty section and you can’t maintain a TAFE campus based on one section.”
In September last year, the Gladstone Avenue site was one of many across the state earmarked for sale.
A document, marked “Cabinet in Confidence” and seen by Fairfax Media, listed the sale of Wollongong West’s “surplus facilities and land” could recoup an estimated $1.33 million.
NSW Skills Minister John Barilaro was questioned specifically about the future of the Wollongong West campus during a budget estimates hearing on Friday.
“Will you guarantee that neither the Orange campus or the West Wollongong campus will be closed or sold?” Labor MLC Daniel Mookhey asked Mr Barilaro.
“I look at the investment in both of those campuses in the past. I think your question brings anxiety,” Mr Barilaro replied. The minister didn’t speak to Wollongong West, but said Orange had a “byelection coming up and you want to bring anxiety to that community”.
A byelection is also being held in Wollongong on the same day – November 12.
In response to an earlier question, Mr Barilaro said TAFE NSW had been asked to put together an asset management plan, including those “where they see an opportunity to recycle them”.
“I can assure you that every single dollar of divestment or recycling will remain in the TAFE budget to build the new premises of the future. I am not ruling out any asset or campus,” he said.
In July, Mr Barilaro revealed TAFE Illawarra would no longer be an autonomous body and operate under one streamlined provider, dubbed One TAFE.
TAFE Illawarra has 13 campuses – at Shellharbour, Wollongong, Wollongong West, Yallah, Bega, Cooma, Queanbeyan, Goulburn, Yass, Moss Vale, Nowra, Moruya and Ulladulla.
It also has a Connected Learning Centre at Dapto.