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HomeIssue 33Batchelor: Little interest in vital courses

Batchelor: Little interest in vital courses

p2146-Batchelor-graduatesBy ERWIN CHLANDA
The was much pomp and ceremony at the Batchelor graduation last week but the institute is facing serious challenges.
Clearly one of the most important courses for the region is in Aboriginal primary health care but just two of the 126 graduates last week were in that field.
“This highlights the crisis that exists and makes the leadership of Minister Lambley in setting up a task force even more timely,” says Central Australian Aboriginal Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee.
“We cannot fix the Aboriginal Health Practitioners workforce crisis without dramatically increasing the number of graduates.”
Eike Pakeha, Batchelor’s Manager of Student Services, says primary health care attracts significant numbers of students in the Top End and numbers in The Centre and the Barkly “are increasing”.
In some cases potential students are already employed out bush and cannot be spared for periodic formal training in town to upgrade their qualifications.
But Ms Ah Chee says she is surprised to hear this: “There are always more than 10 students undertaking the training program in Alice Springs with Congress.
“Congress is currently meeting the demand for training with primary health care funds when this training should be funded with education money.
“There are many students from remote areas who apply to Congress but are referred to Batchelor. This demonstrates significant interest.
“Being a registered Aboriginal health practitioner is a great starting point in employment. The starting wage of a level four health worker is around $60,000,” says Ms Ah Chee.
“There are many unfilled positions in Central Australia.
“We need to ensure we overcome any barriers for remote students to access training.”
p2146-Batchelor-academiaInterest in Business I and II courses is also very low in The Centre.
Ms Pakeha says there are new courses suitable for private enterprise employment, such as AgriFood Operations, Construction, Horticulture, Indigenous Environmental Health.
Again, enrolments are strong in the Top End. Construction is taught in prison, there are no enrolments in The Centre but “interest of potential students is increasing”.
“Attracting students is less of an issue, retaining any students requires hard work,” says Ms Pakeha.
Some people seek to gain skills which do not require the completion of a course resulting in graduation.
“Some take only units. Most students are part time. 30% at present are in current employment seeking additional skills.
“Some have family obligations that can lead to intermission of studies.”
Batchelor has more than 3000 students Territory-wide. In 2013  it had a budget of $41.5m ($16.3m from the Feds, $15.3m from the NT, the rest from fees, charges and contracts. Aboriginal students pay no course fees.)
Batchelor does not release information about how many of its ex-students are in jobs as a result of the education they received at Batchelor.
In Alice Springs the most popular course was Certificate I in Work Preparation (community services) with 33 graduates: “This qualification provides an exposure to work in the community services industry” is the way the Batchelor website explains the course.
“This is a pathway qualification that may lead to a VET in Schools qualification, career clarification and greater participation of equity groups.
“It may also serve as a basis for workplace entry training for people with a disability seeking employment in business service or open employment.
“This course will help you prepare for starting work. You will learn about how to communicate with other people, how to stay safe in the workplace and develop the skills that will help you find a job. The course will also help you practice your reading, writing and number skills.”
Ms Pakeha explains the popularity, in part, by many students having literacy and numeracy issues, the majority being mature age.
The Certificate III course in children’s services had 12 graduates, achieving entry level qualifications into child care centres.
The Certificate II in community services, obtained by 11 graduates, is for “workers who support individuals by providing a first point of contact in a crisis situation and referral to a broad range of services, or workers in residential facilities and / or in community services under direct or regular supervision within clearly defined organisation guidelines and service plans.”
The Certificate II in conservation and land management, with 10 graduates, “enables individuals to select an indigenous land management, conservation earthworks, lands, parks and wildlife or natural area management context as a job focus or a mix of these.”
PHOTOS: Academic staff and graduating students at last week’s ceremony.


  1. The courses that students undertake at Batchelor have less to do with their own interests or learning needs than Batchelor’s aim to make money out of them. Most remote students with no work history have little idea at all what they want to study and are directed towards a course by the institution.
    Batchelor aims to generate as much funding as possible and short courses like Work Prep are ideal for this purpose.
    Batchelor is paid on completion of a course, after competencies have been ticked off, regardless of how long that takes. Say a 150 hour course generates $4,000 in funding and takes the student 200 hours or just five hours, Batchelor gets the same funding. In the last case Batchelor gets the $4,000 for five hours of instruction plus some admin work.
    The lecturers have instructional hours goals they must meet in their contracts that greatly encourage them to complete students in record time and no one double checks the actual competency of students.
    In reality tutors complete a lot of the student work and students are enrolled in similar courses over and over again because they were not competent the first time they were signed off.
    Fortunately for Batchelor Aboriginal students tend not to complain that they haven’t really been taught the course skills. Imagine if all the Batchelor trained teachers actually stood up and said they have never been employed as a teacher because they can’t do the job.
    Batchelor also favours courses in non vital areas because they don’t have the liability risks that health worker courses etc do.
    For example, if a health worker with a competency accredited by Batchelor injured someone because he actually was not competent, that would make the lecturer and Batchelor liable.
    But work prep and other short courses in non vital areas are risk free.
    Because of the liabilities students being taught in vital areas like health really do need to be taught and that is very time consuming and unprofitable for Batchelor.
    This sorry state of affairs is part of the self serving Aboriginal training industry that Twiggy Forrest recently condemned as a blight on Aboriginal people and the tax payer.


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