The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is delighted to announce the ground-breaking Asylum Seeker Vocational Education Training (ASVET) program has been extended for three years from 2018 until 2021.
In addition to the renewed arrangements, people seeking asylum and refugees will also be able to access free vocational education training places under the Victorian Government’s recent announcement of $172 million for free TAFE courses available to all eligible Victorians from January 2019.
Since 2010 the Victorian Government has contracted the ASRC to refer people seeking asylum to subsidised Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses. In 2016 the program was expanded. Between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2018 up to 3000 places were provided for people seeking asylum who held eligible visas.
The renewed arrangements came into effect on 1 July 2018, and continue provision for students to receive ASRC advice and referral to a TAFE, Learn Local or Private RTO training provider for enrolment in a Skills First course.
The arrangements come in conjunction with the Victorian Government’s recent commitment of $10 million dollars over the next three years to continue funding subsidised training for people seeking asylum to attend TAFE and vocational education courses.
The commitment was officially announced by the Victorian Government’s Minister for Training and Skills The Hon. Gayle Tierney at the inaugural ASVET Conference “Celebrate the Journey, Surviving to Thriving Through Vocational Education & Training”, on 28 May 2018.
Ms Tierney said that “As part of this Government’s commitment to education and training we are committing $10 million over three years to provide subsidised access to vocational education and training for people seeking asylum and refugees. We are absolutely committed to provide every opportunity possible to those who have been persecuted and have made the heroic decision to leave.”
The conference was a joint initiative of the ASRC and Victorian Government, and brought together key stakeholders for a day of discussions, workshops and networking for the growing sector.
Via panel discussion and break away groups, the conference looked largely at the issues, challenges, impacts and strategies over the past two years of the Asylum Seeker Vocational Education and Training Program.
“The conference provided a unique opportunity to highlight best practice in action in the Vocational Education and Training sector and to look to the future for how we can build on this best practice,” ASRC Chief Executive Officer Kon Karapanagiotidis said.
Key speakers in attendance were Wayne Butson, Director of Service Industries and Transition Education at Victoria University, Lara Rafferty, Manager of Equity and Diversity at RMIT, Debra Vallely, Coordinator at Preston and Reservoir Adult Community Education, Ann Foley, Executive Officer at Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, Barry Petrovski, Team Leader at Ballarat Centre for Multicultural Youth and Kim-Louise van den Nouwelant, State Manager of Migrant Support Programs with the Red Cross.
Amongst key speakers was Anthony Gartner, Associate Director of Student Equity and Accessibility from Swinburne University, who spoke passionately about the role education plays in positively setting people up for their future.
“We are denying [people seeking asylum] a voice and the opportunity to develop leadership. Because it depends on education. If we don’t educate refugees and asylum seekers they will not develop leadership in their own communities nor a voice in the wider community,” Mr Garner said. “It’s no use giving asylum seekers a free place (at TAFE) if they are going to starve in the process. I don’t know the answer yet but I know the question”
For ASRC Education Manager Gill Meek, not only did the ASVET conference encourage politicians, educational coordinators, people seeking asylum and support workers to come together with an open dialogue, it also provided people seeking asylum with a continuation of opportunities and educational openings.
“For the [ASRC], the impact of the funding will see people seeking asylum being made ready for work. People are able to feel empowered by going to work and know they can provide an income for themselves,” Ms Meek said.
“It is particularly important in the current climate where everything has been taken away from them. We are actually giving them something and that’s a real positive.”
For the ASRC the three-year time-frame will support further development and consolidation of existing ASVET program activities and initiatives. It also allows time to develop and implement new strategies and progress towards sustainability.
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