The cutting of funding to the Fine Arts campus of Newcastle TAFE is in essence all that Sydney does not understand about Newcastle.
Education Minister Adrian Picolli acknowledged on Tuesday, October 23, (1233 ABC) that he did not know that the ceramics course at the fine arts campus led to direct employment (through the supply of ceramic tableware for food production houses across Australia and the globe).
This is despite the cuts to TAFE supposedly only directed to courses that “do not lead directly to employment”.
Such a narrow focus deals Newcastle another Sydney-centric blow.
Mr Picolli also did not realise that the revitalisation of the CBD through Renew Newcastle has been fuelled by the students coming out the Newcastle Fine Arts TAFE.
The artistic-led revival of Newcastle’s CBD can also be attributable to Newcastle being listed in the top 10 destination list for Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel 2011”.
As stated in this guide, the post-BHP Newcastle has seen “an explosion of artists” – the most artists and galleries per capita in Australia – “from acclaimed regional centres to independent, artist-run spaces and dozens of disused city-centre buildings occupied by photographers, fashion designers, digital artists and more as part of the inner-city regeneration scheme, Renew Newcastle”.
There is a direct link between the artistic attributes of Newcastle and tourist dollars, through the listing of Newcastle in the Lonely Planet international guide to the best cities in the world.
Cutting funding to the Fine Arts TAFE is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
It does indirectly boost money coming into the city and does provide direct employment.
It also puts 400 students into the Newcastle CBD, 400 students who come to education and training often without the skills to finish school or go to university, and who gain confidence, pride, and the ability to work, focus, hold down jobs and even go on to university.
The response to the cutting of $1.7billion from the education budget from our local member of Parliament, Liberal Tim Owen, is that the people of the Hunter have to “harden up”.
Strange rhetoric from an MP, who in his first speech talks about the importance of getting money for the redevelopment of the Art Gallery in Newcastle, which for a second budget in a row he has not.
This is despite many millions of dollars going to the redevelopment of the Sydney-based galleries such as the Museum of Contemporary Art.
This is also despite Newcastle having one of the most substantial public art collections outside of any capital city in Australia.
Cutting funding to TAFE is just the tip of the iceberg.
The $1.7billion in cuts to the NSW education sector will also affect every public, private and independent school in the state.
The quality of education for the future generation of this state will be compromised.
There will be a Community Day of Action protesting about the cuts to NSW education at Speers Point Park, 10am this Sunday.
Tim Crakanthorp is a Labor councillor for Ward 2 on Newcastle City Council.