Release type: Speech


NSW Teachers Federation Annual Conference


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

Thank you for inviting me to address your annual conference.

I begin by acknowledging the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land you’re meeting on.

I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in attendance.

The Albanese Government recognises and respects unions as giving voice to the views - and action to the aspirations - of working people.

We understand that as a teachers’ union you have a particularly important role.

What you do as a union and even more so, what you do every day in classrooms, impacts millions of students, almost every parent, and in the case of TAFE, hundreds of thousands of other workers.

When we were elected two years ago, we inherited a neglected and fractured VET sector.

Along with the biggest skills shortage in more than 50 years.

All eight State and Territory Governments were frustrated by federal government inaction and indifference on skills.

Since coming to office, we have been rebuilding those fractured relationships, standing up critical institutions, and delivering skills in priority sectors, along with support for the learners who need it.

And most importantly we have put TAFE back at the heart of the VET sector.

Educating, training and skilling students and workers is critical to our future as a nation – and TAFE is the beating heart of that effort.

Nine out of 10 future jobs will require a tertiary qualification – and about half of them will come through the vocational education and training sector.

In January this year - with all States and Territories - we commenced a $30 billion 5-year National Skills Agreement to drive strategic investment in skills and provide the foundations for enduring reform.

Under the agreement at least 70 per cent of Commonwealth funding will go to TAFEs.

It’s the first agreement to embed shared stewardship to provide national leadership of skills for shared national priorities.

Under that model, Ministers have set priorities including supporting the transformation to Net Zero, sustaining our essential care services and delivering housing supply, while at the same time progressing gender equality and Closing the Gap for First Nations’ people.

The landmark Agreement also targets specific areas of reform and action to be taken by all jurisdictions.

For example, it provides $650 million across the States and Territories to create up to 20 nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence.

Centres, that will be leaders in their field, and bring together TAFEs, universities and industry in genuine partnership to deliver skilled workforces in areas we need them most.

The Centres will work together to innovate and develop world-leading courses and curriculae.

To date we’ve announced a Centre dedicated to advancing clean energy skills in Western Australia and an Electrical Vehicle Centre of Excellence in Canberra – with more to follow soon.

The National Skills Agreement also provides $300 million to build and operate a National TAFE Network – to foster greater collaboration between TAFEs and enhance teaching and learning practices.

Our TAFE Technology Fund is upgrading and expanding campus facilities across the country to ensure students get the best learning possible.

The VET Workforce Blueprint is being developed in collaboration with States and Territories and your union, to support, grow and sustain the VET workforce.

Every time I visit a TAFE I’m inspired by the passion of its teachers and staff.

I see first-hand how that passion drives student success.

Without strong TAFEs we won’t achieve our vision of a Future Made in Australia, achieve net zero, or ensure an enduring care and support sector.

Without TAFE-qualified workers we won’t build the 1.2 million homes people need to live in.

You don’t have to look further than the outstanding take up of Fee-Free TAFE to see the trust and faith people have in TAFE.

Last year alone, we removed financial barriers so more than 355,000 Australians could enrol in Fee-Free TAFE – overwhelmingly in full qualifications.

For many of those people, the acquisition of these in demand skills have changed the course of their lives.

Thank you for everything you do to inspire the future of our workforce.