THE future of the Burdekin TAFE is being called into question”, according to the Member for Burdekin, Dale Last MP, after only two local businesses and neither of the district’s Chambers of Commerce were invited to attend a consultation workshop that the State Government said “will guide a 10-year infrastructure strategy”.
Mr Last said the facility offered enormous potential for the district, but its potential would not be realised without broader consultation.
“The Labor government has tasked a Brisbane-based consultancy firm with identifying the community’s priorities when it comes to TAFE, but the community hasn’t been invited,” he said.
“The invite list was provided by a Minister’s office and that should have alarm bells ringing in the community.”
Mr Last said the Burdekin TAFE was located in Home Hill and, for many years now, the Home Hill Chamber of Commerce has been calling for better utilisation of the facility for the benefit of students and the community.
“The fact that the local Chamber of Commerce wasn’t invited is an absolute insult,” he commented.
While the meeting was on Wednesday, it was only Monday afternoon that Mr Last received the chance to nominate some additional attendees.
“I was told that any additional invitees would have to be approved by the Minister’s office, making it virtually impossible,” he said.
The Member for Burdekin said the restricted invite list and short notice meant the opportunities to revitalise the facility would almost undoubtedly be missed, despite the best efforts of attendees.
“I know that the people who do attend will do their best, but you can’t honestly expect such a small group of representatives to do this alone,” he said. “What you need is a broad range of input from businesses, representative groups, teachers, past students and potential students.”
Mr Last called on the Minister to schedule additional face-to-face consultation and to allow people and groups to nominate to attend “so that we get the best outcome”.
“If the Minister refuses to do that, we know the decisions have al-ready been made and the consultation process is nothing but a smoke screen.”
While Mr Last specifically referred to the fact that the TAFE College was in Home Hill and “the Home Hill Chamber of Commerce has been calling for better utilisation of the facility”, the Minister for Youth Justice, Employment, Small Business and Training, Diane Farmer conceded to north-ern media that they had “erred” in not inviting the “Ayr” Chamber to the Forum.
On Wednesday, a Department spokesman said that up to 60 participants had been invited to attend the workshop including 15 participants from the Burdekin Area and “including the chair of the Home Hill Chamber of Commerce”.
However, the President of the Home Hill Chamber, David Jackson said he had not received any contact whatsoever from the Department and no invitation to the workshop up to Thursday.
The Department spokesperson said there were no plans to close the Burdekin TAFE, which currently has 200 enrolled students.
Mr Last said that in the lead-up to the 2020 election, he “made a commitment to upgrade facilities at the Home Hill TAFE in response to feedback from people like the President of the Home Hill Chamber”.
“Unfortunately, Labor did not match that commitment and there have been no assurances from the Labor government to address the concerns that were raised with me.”