This was published in  the NT Sun on October 16 2018



We are approaching that time in the year when senior students will begin to earnestly consider their futures beyond school.

The focus for senior students seems to be on what degree courses they will need to support their chosen occupation. Much emphasis is placed on academic studies and careers requiring bachelor, masters or even pH D level certification. To this end, students are placed under stress to do well with year 12 examinations.

By comparison very little emphasis is placed on apprenticeships or training for a trade. There seems to be an inference that these courses are for students who cannot succeed academically. Students are almost discouraged from considering occupational alternatives.

There are an array of trades in desperate need of bolstering by qualified people. While a handiperson’s skill can suffice at times, a qualified trades person is often needed for a safe, efficient and lasting job finish.

We have such a critical shortage of qualified tradespeople in the Northern Territory and many other parts of Australia. To fill the gap, overseas recruiting is often done in order to bring people in on visas to fill trades gaps for major projects being undertaken.

It’s time for trades training and study to be presented in a more optimistic, positive light. Students need encouragement to consider these alternatives for they are not “second rate” or inferior. Incomes that can be earned by qualified tradespeople are right up there alongside the earning potential of white collar, degree holding employees.

Stephen Billett Professor of Adult and Vocational Education at Griffith University wrote that “we need to change negative views of the jobs VET serves to make it a good post school option.” (The Conversation, October 4 2018) Billett maintains that there needs to be three key actions to transform present perceptions.

1 A public education campaign is necessary to inform the community (particularly parents) that VET is a viable and worthy post-school option. Industry should support this government sponsored program.
2. Schools should better promote VET as a post school option to students including “…entrance into VET is an important performance indicator.”
3. Governments and industry should ensure that VET options are “… organised, ordered and resources (to provide) students with appropriate educational experiences” (op cit).

Vocational education is overlooked too often as a viable post school option. This is contributing to the NT’s desperate shortage of qualified tradespeople. For the good of our community and the future of our economy, this situation must be reversed.


This was published in the NT Sun on October 9 2018


Casuarina Senior College night classes were to be permanently shelved at the end of 2018. That would have been a strike against community supported education in the NT. The program has been operating at Casuarina since the 1970’s and is one of the longest serving and most successful educational programs ever provided.

The news that it is to be continued for another three years (2019 – 2021) is a win for common sense. The decision recognises the crucial need for adult education provided by the program at Casuarina Senior College.

One of the reasons given for discontinuing the program was cost. Education Department CEO Vicki Bayliss when interviewed on air said that the support provided annually by the department had to go to more pressing priorities. The reversal of the decision that had been made recognises adult education is after all, a high priority area.

A further justification for considering terminating this program was that of declining enrolments, from 3047 in 2010 to 1807 last year.

What may be needed is an advertising campaign to remind top end territorians about adult education.
With our population going and coming as it does, it follows that many people who would enrol in courses, do not know about the program. Newspaper advertisements and static displays of courses on offer in a few suburban shopping centres, do not reach everyone.

What has happened in the past weeks resulting in near loss of this program has raised the issue to the forefront of territory attention. That could be a good starting point for an awareness campaign.

Some of the many positives about the program follow.
. It enables ordinary people to build their skills, knowledge and understanding across a vast array of practical subjects.
. It meets the needs of women and men who cannot undertake alternative courses because of time and cost.
. Courses are non-competitive, allowing those enrolled to progress at their own pace.
. Tutors are empathetic, encouraging and offer one-to-one support to those enrolled.
. Certificates of completion are offered to course participants.
. Courses offer people the chance to develop social and group learning opportunities with like minded participants.

Discontinuing the Adult Education Program at Casuarina College would have made about as much sense as did terminating the school based policing program.

That program has been reinstated because the void created by its absence could not be filled. In similar vein, our adult education program is vital and necessary. It is to Minister Uibo’s credit that she has recognised the need for its continuation.