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Fears Richmond TAFE faces closure as equine courses get the chop – protest held outside the gates

Feb 11, 2022


If you love horses and want to work with them safely there is a place in the Hawkesbury that can teach you all you need to know, but Richmond TAFE’s equine courses are being axed and there are fears it is just the first step in closing the TAFE down or even privatising it.


“If they close the TAFE here, the local students of the Hawkesbury are going to have to travel to Scone, that will be the next closest place they can do these courses,” said Phil Chadwick who is the NSW Teacher’s Federation Deputy Secretary for TAFE, and who says there is a pattern emerging.


Mr Chadwick joined Macquarie MP Susan Templeman today, along with Tim Crakanthorp, Shadow Minister for Skills and TAFE in the NSW Parliament, and a large group of concerned students, teachers and industry members, at the entrance to Richmond TAFE to voice their concerns.


Some 12 members of staff are set to lose their jobs with the axing of the equine courses, but there is rumour – no-one will comment publicly – that Racing NSW will step into the breach and offer the same courses.


“What’s happening here kind of mirrors what happened this time 12 months ago in Scone where TAFE NSW said it was not going to close, that they had no plans to sell,” Mr Chadwick told the Post this morning.


“The Connected Learning Centre offside of the campus opens and lo and behold, just 6 months later the TAFE college in Scone has been sold for less than replacement cost to Racing NSW,” said Mr Chadwick.


Phil Chadwick of the Teachers Federation believes Richmond TAFE could end up for sale as courses are cut


“If they were to close the college in one fell swoop that would be too noticeable so what they do is cut a course here and cut a course there. What they will do here is whittle away one course at a time and then we may see Richmond TAFE up on in the same way we found Scone TAFE last year,” says Mr Chadwick.

Labor’s Mr Crakanthorp said, “it’s an appalling situation. We have seen this happening all over the State. First of all they cut courses and cut so many teachers. 5500 staff and enrolments 150,000 less since the [state Coalition] government came in. We have seen apprenticeships halved and TAFEs sold off.


“That’s why it’s important here at Richmond to take a stand. Here the Minister is using ‘enrolments have decreased’ but in fact he’s using a figure when this TAFE had to train everyone in the industry across the State. He’s being very sneaky by saying the course enrolments are decreasing.


State Shadow Minister Tim Crakanthorp says TAFE has a wonderful brand


“Here today we have an example of how important equine is to this area. I’m from the Hunter and we were devastated to see Scone TAFE sold off [to Racing NSW] and I’m getting that feeling here as well.


“You mention Racing NSW – it’s privatisation by stealth which really goes to the heart of the matter. Since the Coalition has got in they have run down TAFE, downgraded it, cut the staff, cut the courses, the enrolments have gone down.


“They just don’t see themselves in the role of public educators and vocational education. TAFE has had a wonderful brand for well over 100 years, and this government came in and trashed it.”


Ex-Richmond TAFE student Montana Jonker


Montana Jonker went to Richmond TAFE when she was 16 to do a Certificate 3 in Performance Horses. It meant she could confidently go into track riding at Hawkesbury Race Club, and she hasn’t looked back since.


“I learnt everything about horses at Richmond TAFE,” said Montana, now aged 20.


“It gave me so many opportunities in the industry and if they stop the courses it’s going to take those opportunities away from so many kids.”


Montana’s mum also pointed out her daughter was a very shy 16-year-old and during the course she blossomed and is now clearly a confident young woman with a set of industry standard skills.


MP Susan Templeman said, “closing these courses will have a profound impact on the teachers and the students.


Macquarie MP Susan Templeman talks to the protestors this morning


“This industry is one of the pillars in the Hawkesbury. This is the place where people can come and learn how to stay safe in an industry which is so potentially dangerous because we are dealing with extraordinary animals who have extraordinary power, and people need to know how to be safe around them and how to treat them with respect.


“It worries me deeply because it’s not just about a group of horses going, but it’s about a TAFE being undermined. The equine programs here have been so highly prized by this community. This TAFE is too important for this community to lose.”


Brooke Somers who is an experienced trainer at Hawkesbury Race Club and responsible for 25 horses – she got her accreditation at Richmond TAFE – said the move to close the courses was worrying and she didn’t believe replacement courses – if they happened – from Racing NSW would fill the gap.


“If these courses are not here it means we are going to have a harder time to find people who can fill the roles. We have them do the Safe Horse NSW certificate. If this closes down here, it means I have to do my job as well as train someone to do their job, so we lose out.


“At Richmond TAFE they learn management of the horses, how to manage wounds, and injuries to look out for, caring for the horses, checking whether it needs treatment. They have a riding program here at Richmond TAFE so you can learn safely how to manage the horses, and how to manage different horse temperaments.


“If it doesn’t exist we are going to have to do it on the job, but that will lead to more workplace accidents, that is a strong possibility.”


“Racing NSW is offering on the job training, so I have to take time out to train them. What they teach here at TAFE is learning, the horses here are older horses, so they can learn safely.”


Ms Templeman urged people to voice their concerns to the NSW government.


“I plead with people have your say about this and let the NSW government know it’s not good enough. People here are standing up. We will not give up on this, we will keep going.”


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