‘No freebie’ for GippsTAFE

SEVERAL months of negotiations have paid off for Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE after it received approval for a $7 million loan from the State Government to improve campus facilities.

GippsTAFE chief executive Peter Whitley said the institute received approval for the loan earlier this week.

“It’s not a freebie by any means; we have to pay it back,” Dr Whitley said.

“I believe we are the only TAFE that has been given approval to take out a loan, and it is predicated on our performance.”

Dr Whitley said the “helping hand” from the government was the result of a long negotiation process, with the loan to be repaid over five years.

“We are absolutely confident of repaying the loan,” he said.

“The money will be used for the improvement of information and communication technologies and facilities across our campuses. We have been doing reasonably well and the approval from the government indicates they think we can manage it well.”

State Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall told The Express the loan in no way indicated GippsTAFE suffered poor financial health.

“All (their financials) are in good order and they are doing well as an organisation, and the State Government is happy to support them,” Mr Hall said.

“GippsTAFE have done an excellent job in improving their facilities; it is not abnormal for the government to advance a loan to them to ensure they can meet all their commitments.”

Addressing Melbourne media on Tuesday, Mr Hall said GippsTAFE and Bendigo TAFE were two institutions to receive financial aid from the State Government.

“(The funding assistance) is circumstantial rather than as the result of (previously-announced) changes,” Mr Hall said. He was speaking after the announcement by Premier Denis Napthine of $200 million in new funding for the state’s TAFE institutes over four years, in conjunction with the government response to the TAFE Reform Panel recommendations.

“The funding will support TAFE institutes to better equip themselves to meet the challenges of the future, but importantly, to deliver the programs and training courses that their students and local communities need,” Mr Hall said.

“We have seen a positive response to the reforms with a 22 per cent increase in VET students in Victoria in the last 12 months,” Dr Napthine said.

The government has accepted 12 of the 19 recommendations put forward by the TAFE Reform Panel, accepted six in part and rejected a suggestion to merge eight regional and rural TAFE institutes into four.

The acceptance of some of the proposals means the government will transfer property titles to TAFE institutes, reduce regulatory burdens by more clearly defining roles and responsibilities, and modernising TAFE institutes’ constitutions.