Hundreds of fine arts students protested against TAFE funding cuts as they delivered a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to NSW State Parliament yesterday.
The state government announced last month it was withdrawing all public funding from TAFE fine arts courses from January 2013. The government argued that art courses were not vocational, and that there are few job prospects for artists. “This a tough decision,” Premier Barry O’Farrell said. “A tough decision forced by the state’s financial crisis.”
The opposition believes the cuts will force students to pay $6000 to $8000 a year, resulting in the loss of up to 200 art teacher’s jobs.
The line of protesters stretched from the State Library, past parliament, to Sydney Hospital. The cries of “Shame, Barry, shame” and “Barry O’Farrell is his name, cultural robbery is his game” could be heard down Macquarie street.
Shadow Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt praised the petitioners’ efforts, saying, “Each one of these signatures was a conversation with someone, explaining that this is a really important campaign.”
The students screamed their support as she said art was a vital part of the community.
“We need artists like we need electricians and plumbers,” she said. “We are happier and healthier when the arts are alive. Everywhere you look you will find artists. Art is work.
“The Opposition has cut $1.7 billion in education and singled out art by introducing full fees. That is $12,000 on a one-year course.”
Ms Tebbutt will present the petition to parliament.
TAFE arts teacher Romula Brown told The Newsroom the cuts needed to be stopped.
“O’Farrell and his government are expecting us to just lie down and forget about it,” she said. “They want us to be invisible casualties but today we are showing him that we are going to stand up and fight. And we will be heard.
“I don’t want to lose my job, my only source of income, and I don’t want my friends, some of the finest teachers I know, losing theirs.”
Fine arts student John Himmels, 35, said that Barry O’Farrell could no longer ignore the students’ cries.
“We haven’t even been told how much we’ll be charged if we want to complete our course, but I’m betting I can’t afford it. This government needs to realise that it has to start putting people before profit, and we are here to do all we can to make that happen,” he said.
Fine arts student Alicia Moor, 21, said she could no longer afford to finish her course.
“The arts do bring economic value,” she said. “The creative arts industry contributes over $30 billion to the national economy every year, and arts are valuable way beyond money. There is no art without artists.” – Natasha Charlaff
Photos by Lily Crichton