To the Senate Education and Employment Reference Committee Inquiry into TAFE in Australia,

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1 To the Senate Education and Employment Reference Committee Inquiry into TAFE in Australia, We are teachers, service providers, community liaison officer and case manager involved in migrant settlement and education in Cairns, Queensland. We welcome this opportunity to convey our serious concerns about the funding cuts to English language, literacy and numeracy programs in Queensland and outline the detrimental impact this is having on individuals, our local community and economy. TERMS OF REFERENCE: a) The role played by TAFEs in: iii. The development of opportunities for Australians to improve themselves and increase their life, education and employment prospects iv. the delivery of services and programs to support regions, communities and disadvantaged individuals to access education, training and skills and through them, a pathway to further education and employment c) What public funding is adequate to ensure TAFEs remain in a strong and sustainable position to carry out its aims? e) Mechanisms used by state governments to allocate funding. Impact of new entitlement model on English language, literacy and numeracy funding in Queensland: For the first time in 20 years the Language Unit at Tropical North Queensland TAFE (TNQ TAFE), Cairns has had to turn approximately 200 migrant English and literacy students away and tell them not to come back to classes in This has had a devastating impact on students, many of whom have nowhere else to go to learn to read, write and speak English. From 1 st July 2013 the Queensland government introduced a new funding model for TAFE, the Certificate 3 Guarantee, by which specific government subsidies are allocated to particular courses. English language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) courses are now funded as Foundation Skills in that model. Government subsidies for these courses have been cut dramatically, ie, reduced to one fifth of previous funding per student contact hour (SCH). For example: the Certificate 2 in Spoken and Written English (national curriculum for adult migrant English) is now funded at $1,050 for a 500 hour course. This equates to approximately $2 per student contact hour. Furthermore, the government has ruled that training providers (RTOs) are not allowed to charge any fees for Foundation Skills courses. This unreasonably meager level of funding suggests that the Queensland government expects TAFE to deliver LLN courses at a significant loss or not deliver LLN training at all. It is hard to imagine that any private RTO, even with the lowest of overheads, would be able to deliver face to face LLN training at this price. Delivery of English language, literacy and numeracy programs is now unsustainable and unviable for TAFEs under the current funding arrangements. As a consequence TNQ TAFE no longer provides literacy and numeracy courses for the people of north Queensland. Access to Migrant English Page 1 of 4

2 programs is greatly restricted. Only those eligible for the AMEP program (510 hours of tuition funded by the Commonwealth) can access Migrant English courses at TAFE. Learning to speak, read and write a new language is a long term process Migrants from non-english speaking backgrounds may be able to access the AMEP (Adult Migrant English Program) within the first 3 years of arrival or grant of a permanent visa. AMEP provides 510 hours of English language tuition and is funded by the federal government at almost ten times the rate of the current Queensland government subsidy per SCH. However, many migrants and those from refugee backgrounds require more than 510 hours to achieve functional literacy and language proficiency. This is due to factors such as little or no formal education in their country of origin; not being literate in their first language; and settlement issues including financial, psychological and cultural pressures. Learning to read, write and speak a new language is a long term process and these students require on-going LLN tuition. Previously these individuals were able to access further tuition at TAFE to improve their English and progress to VET training, or university and employment. However, due to inadequate funding, the Queensland government now denies these people the opportunity to improve their English. Their goals of further education and employment are impossible to achieve without sufficient language, literacy and numeracy skills. Many migrants are not eligible for the SEE Program After completing 510 hours in the AMEP, registered jobseekers may access further LLN tuition in the SEE (Skills for Education and Employment) program. This commonwealth funded program has strict eligibility criteria. There are a significant number of migrants who are ineligible for SEE training. These include: sole parents, carers, parents with pre-school aged children, those over 64, and those deemed by pre-course assessors as not suitable for training or having the capacity to progress. They are some of the most disadvantaged people in our community and are being further marginalised. Excluded from SEE training, and now excluded from TAFE LLN classes, they have no way to improve their English. They have the greatest need for learning, but are denied access to it. These people are at risk of never being able to contribute to the economy, fully participate in the Australian community or become Australian citizens, as the citizenship test requires a competent level of English and knowledge of Australia. Furthermore, immigrants, including those who arrived on humanitarian visas who have obtained parttime or fulltime employment (often in poorly paid unskilled jobs) are effectively being penalised because they are not eligible for SEE training and now cannot study English at TAFE either. Many of our students work long hours in low paid unskilled jobs 5 or 6 days a week to support their families. Previously they were able to come to study at TAFE on their only days off to improve their English because they were determined to achieve an Australian qualification and get a better job in the Page 2 of 4

3 future. These Australian residents now have no chance of improving their English unless they pay full fees as an international student, eg. $80 a day at a private English language college, which is beyond their means. This creates yet another huge barrier to successful settlement for migrants and those from refugee backgrounds. Without access to further LLN training, these people cannot realise their full potential in further training and employment. Over 25 years of teaching English at TAFE we have found that migrants bring with them a wealth of knowledge and skills; a willingness to work hard and great desire to participate in, contribute to and be accepted by their new community. Government funding for on-going LLN tuition is not money wasted, but an investment in Australia s economic and social capital. Case studies Migrants and refugees in the workforce are now excluded from English courses Thanh is a refugee from Burma who arrived in Australia two years ago. He completed 510 hours in AMEP and passed Certificate 1 in English and part of Certificate 2. He is employed as a supermarket trolley collector and must send money to support a sick family member still living as a refugee in Malaysia. His goal is to do Certificate 3 in Commercial Cookery and become a chef. However, he needs to improve his literacy and numeracy before he can enter the course. He has no options for English classes because he is ineligible for SEE training and TAFE no longer offers English classes in the new entitlement model. Sungara is originally from Rwanda where she was a primary teacher. She completed her AMEP hours and Certificate 2 in English in She currently works as a housekeeper to support her 4 children and save money to sponsor her husband to migrate to Australia. Her goal is to become a teacher aide and eventually a teacher, but she requires a higher level of English to undertake a Cert 3 in Education Support. Unfortunately her goal is now unattainable because there are no English courses available to her at TAFE. After completing a SLPET Housekeeping course (AMEP funded Special Language Pathways to Employment Training), many students have obtained work. Their English is at a high Cert 1 to Cert 2 level. They need to study more so that they can reach functional level and their employers support this. However, because they have a job, they are not eligible for SEE funding so they are unable to improve their English and therefore their workplace communication skills are not improving at the level they could. Success stories of previous VRG funding and implications for the future Jessica is originally from Rwanda, from where she fled to the Congo and then entered the Cameroons where she lived in an orphanage with her young daughter. She arrived in Australia as a young single mum on a humanitarian visa for women at risk. In the past 6 years Jessica graduated from the Page 3 of 4

4 Preliminary English course to Certificate III in English at TNQ TAFE. In 2009 she completed a Certificate 1 in Hospitality, so she could obtain work to support herself and her daughter. While working, she completed Certificate 3 in Health Admin Services, and in 2011 a Diploma in Nursing. In 2013 she was able to continue her studies in Cert III English, where the teachers could coach her in the on-line Adult Tertiary Preparation course she was undertaking in an endeavour to enter university. Her goal is to study a Bachelor in Nursing so that she can become a registered nurse. During her studies Josephine has also been working as a nurse aid at the Cairns Hospital, and being a single mum all at the same time. Jessica s AMEP hours finished after the first year of residing in Australia. Under the new system Cert 3 Guarantee she would never have been able to complete Certificate 3 in English because she had a job, and would not be on the path to achieving her goal of becoming a registered nurse. Older humanitarian entrants are excluded from English courses The following Nepali speaking Bhutanese refugees are just a few of the students no longer eligible to attend English classes at TAFE as they have completed their AMEP hours. They are also not eligible to attend English classes through local SEE contract providers. These students have all benefitted from English classes and still have the capacity to benefit from more education. They make slow progress due to their personal circumstances, such as no literacy in their first language, no prior experience of school, age and state of health. Their families and community have very real concern about their mental health as they have lost a significant opportunity to engage with others in meaningful learning and have lost the opportunity to participate in the classes which gave them a sense of self-worth and allowed them to participate as learners in Australian society. Nar Maya is not eligible to access classes through the SEE provider she is on a carer s pension. She is the primary carer for her blind husband. Ramala and Dhan, a married couple are not eligible to access classes through the SEE provider as they are over age 65. Bishnu is not eligible to access classes through the SEE provider as she is over age 65. Padma and Ganga Maya are not eligible to access classes through the SEE provider as they were assessed by the provider as not having the capacity to benefit from training. This is just a small sample of a large number of former students who do have the capacity to benefit from training, but are likely to progress slowly due to their personal circumstances. They also have the potential to make a significant contribution to Australian society, but need access to more education. Social isolation and mental health issues Studies have shown that migrants and people from refugee backgrounds in Australia have rates of significant psychological distress three times that of the Australian population (1,2). Generally this can be Page 4 of 4

5 attributed to the relocation process itself and leaving friends, family and familiar things behind (3). Additional stressors associated with settlement include: difficulty understanding the new language and culture, difficulty finding employment, difficulty building community networks, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination and difficulty gaining acceptance into society, social isolation, and difficulty obtaining housing, financial problems, family relationship issues, etc. All these factors add together to undermine their sense of identity and control over their lives. A survey into the psychological functioning of 148 Bhutanese refugees (students at TNQ TAFE) was undertaken in Cairns in May Results of the survey indicated Elevated levels of psychological distress, specifically anxiety (67.9%) and depression (59.9%), were reported by participants. These percentages are for individuals experiencing moderate to severe symptoms within each domain. (4) For migrants and humanitarian entrants, involvement in English classes is essential not only for learning the new language; for settlement and acculturation; but also for their psychological and emotional wellbeing. In many cases English classes represent the majority of their day-to-day interaction in the new community and are central to developing a sense of self-worth and achievement. Without access to on-going English courses, the meaning and quality of their lives diminish considerably and they become increasingly isolated and marginalised. The current lack of state funding for LLN courses is seriously exacerbating existing mental health issues in new and emerging migrant communities. Funding for English, literacy and numeracy tuition is a social justice issue. We believe it is unacceptable that residents of Australia who are not functionally literate are currently being denied access to the language, literacy and numeracy tuition they need. Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which states that primary education must be free to all, and binds signatories to a progressive realisation of free and accessible secondary and higher education. Therefore, all Australians have the right to basic education. The Australian government and state governments have a duty to its citizens and permanent residents to ensure the accessibility of educational opportunities. The Queensland government must immediately increase subsidies for Foundation Skills courses to a sustainable level of funding, so TAFE colleges can deliver quality language, literacy and numeracy tuition to people who are currently being excluded. These underpinning skills are essential for further training, employment and for social cohesion and economic growth in the far northern region. 1. Richardson, S., Miller-Lewis, L., Ngo, P. & Ilsley, D. 2002, The Settlement Experiences of New Migrants: A Comparison of Wave One of LSIA 1 and LSIA 2, DIMIA, Canberra Page 5 of 4

6 2. Vanden Heuvel, A. & Wooden, M. 1999, New Settlers Have Their Say How Immigrants Fare Over the Early Years of Settlement, DIMIA, Canberra 3. Australian Government: Department of Immigration and Citizenship, The Social Costs and Benefits of Migration into Australia Chapter 3: Human Capital, pg Survey results: Mia Lumley, Masters in Clinical Psychology, 2013 (not yet published). Page 6 of 4

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