Wudinna deputy mayor Ned Luscombe says there is anger regarding last week’s state budget announcement to close the Wudinna TAFE campus by 2020.
Treasurer Rob Lucas announced the closure of seven TAFE campuses around the state, including in regional centres at Wudinna, Roxby Downs and Coober Pedy.
The campus is set to close during the 2019-20 financial year, leaving Eyre Peninsula with campuses at Ceduna, Port Lincoln and Whyalla.
Mr Luscombe said there was no prior warning of the impending closure.
“We are angry and appalled – the manner of informing came from the media and when it came to our notice, it took time to get anything out of the people in Adelaide to find out what was going on,” he said.
“We’ve been given a lukewarm commitment that someone from TAFE will come to Wudinna and speak to the TAFE campus and council about what will happen next.
“We are angry because they say it saves costs, seem to think it is expensive and think our numbers don’t justify being open, but we dispute that.”
Education Minister John Gardner said significant changes needed to occur for TAFE to become efficient and effective within the market.
He said the government was committed to providing TAFE with a fresh start.
“This government will support TAFE SA to deliver the internal changes required to become more efficient and effective,” Mr Gardner said.
“A number of TAFE SA campuses are expensive to run, are not fit for purpose and are not well utilised.”
Wudinna’s TAFE campus had 119 students enrolled in the most recent semester, with a significant portion enrolled in a short-term course.
Mr Gardner said TAFE would consult with students enrolled at the campus.
“TAFE will consult directly with all current students enrolled at Wudinna to ensure that all students can complete their courses regardless of the campus closure,” he said.
“TAFE SA will continue to operate in the Wudinna community and support students through training delivered locally, in workplaces and community locations, and online.
“Training locations already used in 2017 and 2018 include Huck Shepherd Farm and the Wudinna Shearing Shed.”
Mr Gardner said while the majority of TAFE training was currently delivered in the classroom, as TAFE responded to the needs of industry, enterprises and learners, the amount of training delivered in the workplace would increase, as would the use of technology.
Mr Luscombe said the closure would leave a gaping hole in delivering education for a number of Eyre Peninsula students, and came only months after refurbishments were made to the Wudinna campus.
“Look at Eyre Peninsula as a triangle and there are campuses at each point but nothing in the middle – Wudinna serviced the centre of the region,” he said.
“We could have an iron ore mine start up in the next few years and services like TAFE will be valuable should it happen, but once it is gone it is hard to bring back.
“Part of the government’s mantra is investing in regional South Australia and while they do seem to be doing more in regional SA, withdrawing investment is contrary to their policy.”
Mr Luscombe said this would give younger people another reason to “pack up and move to Adelaide”, further depleting the region.
Labor leader Peter Malinauskas called the decision “short-sighted”.
“Closing seven TAFE campuses is a short-sighted decision which will cut job opportunities for thousands of South Australian young people,” he said.
“Before the election, Steven Marshall didn’t tell South Australians about his plans to close seven TAFE campuses.”