TAFE Response to COVID -19 

We’re all in this together – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

We’re all in this together – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

In the normal course of events I would have been writing this piece on the way to the US where I was to attend the Centennial celebration of the American Association of Community Colleges. These are clearly not normal times.

There’s little to add in new words concerning COVID-19 compared to the column inches this past week. The messages we have all been receiving from most parts of society and the suppliers we engage with on a regular basis demonstrate the wholesale impact this unseen virus is having on our way of life.

For our part we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Convention set for August in Perth. We will start planning on a Convention for 2021.

I have been part of the Global Reputation Taskforce, which was established by Ministers Tehan, Birmingham and Cash following our bushfire disasters. The taskforce is designed to ensure Australia continues to be seen across the world as a safe and valuable destination for overseas study. Between announcing the taskforce and its first meeting COVID-19 broke out and we were discussing the passage of Chinese students to Australia in time to commence semester one. This and the bushfires seem like distant news given we are now in the midst of the global shutdown.

The taskforce is shifting to new emergencies. Many English Language and private training and higher education providers are on the brink as the regular flow of international visitors (for language training) and international students dries up almost instantly and with great uncertainty when they will return. On-line delivery is part of the solution but when many come to Australia for the social learning experience it’s uncertain how many will take up this option.

If the fall-out is what’s expected many providers will be in precarious financial positions and the students here in Australia at risk of being stranded. In addition to hoping stimulus packages will assist, we will all need to band together to make sure they are safe and can see passage to a new provider if closure is the unfortunate outcome.

Three horizons for the taskforce – bushfires, Chinese students, provider closures – in as many months. It will need to remain in place for several years to help us coordinate responses to events over the horizon we can’t even fathom at this point. Sticking together is the key.

Community Colleges in the States started in the early 1900s mainly as ‘tertiary’ extension within high school, thus the early name of Junior Colleges. They soon flourished at the community level as local leaders, concerned that mechanisation and technology in its early form needed a new form of worker, saw them as the local vehicle to uplift capacity. In those days only very few school leavers relocated to a (then elite) university. Since then the colleges have educated returning soldiers, helped migrants integrate into American society and work, and played key roles in empowering African Americans. Jump forward to today and many run two-year courses for articulation to university, industry relevant vocational learning as well as general education, just to mention a few.

While our attention must be on immediate action, it is not too difficult to see that accessible education and training will be needed as we come out of this crisis. That’s why we need to work together to make sure we have a solid tertiary sector on the other side.

I finish with some timeless words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Hospitality sector reeling from nationwide ban

Thousands of pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and gyms will bear the full brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak as the venues are forced to shut or curtail operations from today in every state and territory.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement last night following a meeting with state and territory leaders comprising the National Cabinet.

From midday today, local time, the following will be required to close:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the one person per four square metre rule applies).

The PM said the measures would be reviewed monthly but should expect to remain “for at least six months”.

“Leaders acknowledged that these new restrictions will change the way we live and expressed deep regret for those business owners and employees who will be impacted,” the prime minister said.

“The goal is to reduce the spread of the virus, to flatten the curve and to save the lives of fellow Australians.”

He warned that further restrictions would be imposed if current social distancing measures are not adhered to.

See the PM’s media release

COVID-19 update - how TAFEs are affected

TAFE institutes across the country are grappling with significant challenges as they strive to provide ongoing teaching amid the rapidly-changing response to COVID-19.

In the ACT, the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has implemented a temporary pause on classes, starting today, and has asked students not to attend campuses for the week.

CIT Chief Executive Officer, Leanne Cover, said CIT is undertaking business continuity arrangements in order to respond flexibly to students and their training needs.

“This pause will give CIT teaching staff the opportunity to reconfigure delivery of teaching and learning and further ensure social distancing practices into our learning environment, so we can continue to provide ongoing quality training for our students.”

There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 on campus.

During the week student support services will still be available via phone or online and a number of facilities and spaces across all CIT locations will remain open. These include libraries, CIT Fit & Well facilities for members, and the Reid Early Childhood Centre. Most CIT commercial operations will not be open.

“We anticipate recommencing learning on Monday 30 March, and hope to continue to provide educational services up to our scheduled break on Thursday 9 April,” Ms Cover said.

See more


TAFE NSW’s crisis management team has been operating for several weeks to oversee the strategic response to coronavirus and developed a range of measures in consultation with NSW Health and relevant Commonwealth agencies.

The measures are being implemented in line with the latest advice from health authorities, and are aimed at maintaining the safe, orderly operation of TAFE NSW campuses while minimising risk to students and staff.

TAFE NSW is proactively testing remote access and working capabilities to maintain business continuity and minimise impacts on students and stakeholders, including through changes to delivery.

TAFE NSW operates the largest online training platform in Australia and has a long history of utilising technology to expand training opportunities to regional and remote locations.

See more


TAFE Queensland is continuing to deliver face-to-face training and following the advice of Queensland Health.

TAFE Queensland CEO Mary Campbell said the safety of students, staff and communities is paramount and all precautionary steps are being considered as part of business continuity and emergency response planning.

“All campuses continue to undergo extensive daily cleaning to ensure the health and wellbeing of our staff and students,” Ms Campbell said.

“Due to the practical nature of the vocational education sector, a full transition to online delivery of training may not be possible in all circumstances. Options to ensure students continue to progress their course of study with TAFE Queensland are under way,” Ms Campbell said.

In line with Queensland Health and federal government advice, it is postponing or cancelling events and gatherings that are not related to training delivery.

See more


In South Australia, TAFE SA will continue to provide training and its campuses remain open.

It has established a Resilience Management Team which meets on a daily basis and is providing communication updates to staff and students.

TAFE SA’s response will continue to be guided by the latest advice from relevant authorities. It has implemented a range of actions and policies in response to the evolving situation, and is preparing to respond to various situations that may emerge.

See more


In Tasmania, TasTAFE campuses and training facilities are open and will remain open for as long as it is safe for students and staff.

TasTAFE is taking advice from Public Health Tasmania and the state government in managing COVID-19, however, it says the situation is likely to continue for some time and is evolving rapidly.

See more


In Western Australia, all TAFE campuses are currently open and operational.

The Department of Training and Workforce Development Executive and TAFE Managing Directors are working together to manage a Pandemic Incident Response Plan, with a key focus on minimising risk to students and staff.

There is also close liaison with lead agencies, including the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and Department of Health, to ensure the approach is consistent with current information.


In Victoria, TAFE institutes remain open and classes are operating largely as normal. Institutes are working closely with the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET), the Department of Health and Human Services and Commonwealth authorities.

There has been a stepped up focus on cleaning of public areas and actively practising social distancing practices.  A number of institutes are working on plans to transfer some course delivery online.

William Angliss Institute is asking all students and staff to volunteer to a temperature check on entry – something it says has been successful at its Singapore and Sydney campuses.

DET advised on March 16 that Tech Schools and their tertiary host institutions cease program delivery immediately, which has impacted some TAFE delivery.

Social distancing requirements have also meant some changes to the way courses such as beauty, hairdressing and massage are being delivered.

The restriction on indoor gatherings to no more than one person per every four square metres means a number of postponements and cancellations including graduation ceremonies.

ASQA advises training providers how to deal with COVID-19

A host of day-to-day issues faced by VET providers in dealing with COVID-19 have been addressed in a series of FAQs provided by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

Following a provider roundtable meeting last Thursday, ASQA issued the detailed advice that addresses the most common questions raised on how to deliver training and still remain compliant.

On the question of online learning, ASQA says common complaints from learners relate to the support they receive.

“If students are no longer in the classroom they may not receive regular and personalised contact with their trainer. RTOs (registered training organisations) should be aware of this and ensure students continue to be supported,” ASQA says.

“People may be concerned during this time and may be self-isolating because their age or health issues (or those of their immediate family) place them at greater risk.“

ASQA also says RTOs may also consider delaying studies where it is more suitable that students remain at home, if adaptive learning practices are not possible.

“It is important that RTOs maintain good records on a student-by-student basis regarding the reasons why a student may not have attended and how they have had to implement adaptive measures to assist students during this period,” the guide says.

See also ASQA’s main coronavirus information page

Victorian TAFEs urged to be collaborators, not competitors: Macklin review

The current model of VET in Victoria has seen TAFE’s once-distinctive role become “a confusing blend of commercialism and public service”, according to the Macklin review of the state’s VET system.

In an issues paper released on Friday, former Labor federal minister Jenny Macklin said that current governance arrangements encourage the state’s 12 autonomous TAFE institutes to act as “competitors within a mixed market, rather than as collaborators with a shared role in serving the Victorian economy and community.”

“This Review will inform the Victorian Government’s consideration of more collaborative governance arrangements and approaches to public VET provision in Victoria,” the paper said.

The issues paper will be open for consultation, ahead of a final report to the government in October.

Other key elements of the report include:

  • The possibility of greater specialisation and sharing of expertise across the TAFE network;
  • An examination of TAFE funding, described as “a patchwork of different sources from subsidies, community service grants, loadings, infrastructure programs, and other targeted funding streams.”
  • The reasons why fewer than half of Victoria’s VET students (44.6%) completed their qualification in 2018;
  • The issue of widely variable fees for students studying the same VET course (fees for the Certificate III in Horticulture ranged between $3,000 and $12,826);
  • More innovative and integrated delivery of VET – online VET in Victoria constituted only 2% of government-funded training, compared to 33% in NSW and 13% across Australia.

The paper says that over the last five years, the Victorian government has made significant progress in stabilising the system, moving from a ‘free market’ to a ‘managed market’.

“It has increased funding to TAFE after years of cuts, invested in innovation, and strengthened quality requirements for providers receiving public funding,” it says.

“Rebuilding a strong TAFE sector is a priority in overall sector renewal.”

See Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy: Issues Paper

Denise Bradley, reformer, university leader, passes away at 77 

Professor Denise Bradley, the architect of the landmark review of the higher education system, passed away on Friday.

Her death, at the age of 77, was announced by the University of South Australia where she was vice-chancellor from 1997 to 2007.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd said Denise had one of best understandings of higher education in the nation and dedicated her career to making changes that would see more women, more Aboriginal people and more people from low social and economic backgrounds have the transformational opportunity of a good education.

“She understood very clearly that education not only empowers individuals but transforms whole societies,” Professor Lloyd said.

One of her legacies is the 2008 Bradley review which recommended a fully integrated post secondary education system. Following the review, Labor introduced the system of demand driven funding and removal of caps on university enrolments.

Among her many achievements, Professor Bradley was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1995; a recipient of a Centenary Medal in 2003; named South Australian of the Year in 2005; made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2008; and was conferred the prestigious College Medal by the Australian College of Educators in 2011. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UniSA in 2007.

Professor Bradley passed away following a battle with cancer. She is survived by her husband, children and grandchildren.

TDA extends its condolences to Denise’s family and colleagues.

Diary Dates

YES2020 (postponed)
Year13 Youth Engagement Summit
19 March 2020
The Venue, Alexandria, Sydney
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Youth Futures Summit
20 – 21 April 2020
Melbourne Cricket Ground
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AVETRA Conference (postponed)
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
Melbourne
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2020 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
15 May 2020
QT Gold Coast Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
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Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
Annual 2020 Skills Conference
11 June 2020
Sydney
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National Manufacturing Summit 2020
Manufacturing a Sustainable Future
6 & 7 July 2020
Gold Coast, Queensland
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‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2020 (cancelled)
12 – 14 August 2020
Westin Hotel, Perth
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Worldskills Australia
12 – 15 August 2020
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
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National Skills Week
24 – 30 August 2020
Various locations
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2020 National VET Conference
Velg Training
17 – 18 September 2020
Gold Coast Convention and Exhitbiton Centre, Broadbeach, Queensland
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World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics
2020 World Congress

14 – 16 October 2020
Donostia – San Sebastian, Spain
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VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
Postponed to November 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
New Date to be Advised Soon

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
Melbourne
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