With Gunner and Scullion, Batchelor doesn't need Santa


p2354-batchelor-3By ERWIN CHLANDA
Q: How do you collect a cool $30m a year in public money and get away with giving the finger to anyone asking what you’re doing with it?
A: Easy. Don’t ask Santa. Ask the Batchelor Institute.
It gets its annual budget in roughly equal shares from Darwin and Canberra.
But while the NT government is accountable for money it spends in its own right, it cannot disclose how money is spent which it gives to Batchelor.
Or at least, that’s what Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s chief minder is telling us, while Senator Nigel Scullion’s chief minder remains mum on the question.
And this is what Batchelor’s Communications Manager, Kevin Arthur, is saying: “This is our prepared statement, we will not be making any further comment on this matter.
“We will not be releasing our ASQA audit documentation to any external parties.” (ASQA is the Federal regulator of Tertiary Education, the Australian Skills Quality Authority.)
“ASQA publishes its decisions on its website,” says Mr Arthur.
It does not. Searching for Batchelor Institute or Batchelor in the “decisions” section of the ASQA site for all four headings (latest regulatory decisions; regulatory decisions – table; notices and Enforceable Undertaking) all we got was “your search yielded no results”.
ASQA says it “only provides its audit reports to the providers that were audited. If the training provider wishes to make an audit report publicly available, that is a matter for them. There is no requirement to do so.
“You may, however, lodge an FOI Act request should you so wish. Details on how to do that are on the ASQA website.”
Should we lodge an FOI request, ASQA tells us that they would need to seek comment from Batchelor which – as we have been told in no uncertain terms by it – doesn’t want the public to have that information.
Says Mr Arthur further: “The matter of quality is ongoing with ASQA and we do not comment on current matters between the Institute and our regulatory authorities.”
And so the mushroom treatment of the public neatly comes full circle as the turmoil in the organisation continues and the level of education it provides is a cruel joke.
In the past year in Alice Springs Certificate III – which are the minimum for leading to mainstream work – went to just 24 recipients. 184 students received Certificate I.
Of these 102 – well over half – were in Access to Vocational Pathways “designed for individuals who require significant foundation skills support to access a vocational learning pathway … reading, writing, numeracy, oral communication and learning skills at Australian Core Skills Framework Level 1”.
Pretty well primary school stuff – yet most of the students are adults.
As this is a decades-long pattern, the failure of the Institute can be gauged by how few students are progressing to Certs III or IV, year after year.
And yet employment and education are ever prominent in the hype of both governments when they address themselves to the intractable problems of the Northern Territory.
We reported in 2014: 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.)
The questions we’ve been asking for years are pretty simple (google our site):–
• How many graduates (expressed as a percentage of the total) are absorbed into mainstream jobs and keep them for a year or more?
Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 4.02.42 pm• How many students, in the past three years, have been awarded (respectively) Certs I, II, III and IV?
• Are there irregularities about Recognition of Prior Learning?
• Are there other irregularities at Batchelor and if so, what are they?
• Batchelor has admitted that ASQA are investigating two courses: What courses are they? What are these investigations about? What are the results?
There are persistent suggestions of improper Recognition of Prior Learning, and frequent allegations such as these (at right) remain unanswered.
Mr Gunner’s protestations of transparency are hollow while he gives millions to an organisation which treats that principle with contempt.


  1. Erwin and Alice Springs News Online are not alone in coming up empty when trying to extract public audit information about grants for Aboriginal education and Level III Certificates.
    I had to jump through all the hoops over a three year period under the FOI Act to force the Dept if Health to release audit documents on expenditure of $2.1 million in grants to the Indigenous Marathon Project which gave out Certificate III accreditation to recipients through Rob de Castella’s SmartStart for Kids charity in 2010, 2011 and 2010.
    I was required to engage the full FOI process of departmental refusal, then internal review, then Office of the Australian Information Commissioner review, then to an Administrative Appeal application and public hearing is a daunting, time consuming and mind-deadening task.
    On the other hand, on isolation occasion I have experienced immediate release of Department information under FOI.
    I have found that it is only when the Commonwealth Department and the grant recipient have something they don’t want the public to know, something to hide, that the public is forced to engage a daunting and often very costly process.
    The process is designed to discourage the average punter from inquiry … to make him or her give up in frustration and go away.

  2. 84 students received Certificate I. Certificate III went to just 24 recipients.
    That’s because Cert 1 is the top of the safe fudge level.
    Cert 1s are handed out like lollies with tutors completing the work.
    They are the bread and butter of training organisations in our town.
    A fudged Cert 1 is safe, ASQA won’t investigate complaints about a lowly Cert 1.
    Cert IIIs are more challenging to fudge, and more risky.
    Imagine the scandal if Batchelor gave a Cert III to an illiterate student and was caught out by ASQA, e.g. a graduate could complain that he wasn’t taught properly and doesn’t have the skills he should have. Graduate teachers could complain they can’t get a job etc.
    Students need to be marginally literate to be safely fudged for a Cert III and very few are.
    Good on Yuedumu School for calling them on the pre completed work books.
    We have a system where very large numbers of Aboriginal people of all ages have one or more Cert 1s, I know people with three or more.
    Very few have qualifications that could get them a job or help them to keep a job.

  3. One of the mystery’s of Government funding! How does Deek get so much money, with no accountability? He then has the gall to rattle the tin at fun runs under a guise of philanthropy? Spare me!

  4. @ Jack: This accreditation scam is shameful and, patronising of good people. No athletes in the Indigenous Marathon Project received Certificate III quals because training in the first three years was virtually non existent, 2009 to 2012.
    Then the whistle was blown and Department of Health auditors pinpointed issues of non-compliance and expenditure that rang major alarm bells at the highest management levels. All the way up to Minister Snowdon’s office.
    How it was sorted and dealt with has never been disclosed to the public.

  5. @ John: From the institution’s point of view the problem is that a Cert 1 does not fund a literacy / numeracy program that could move a student from grade 2 to grade 8/9.
    The grade 2 is the common entry point for many students, they are the product of a failed education system.
    Grade 8/9 is about the level of a Cert 1 so that means six to seven years of schooling need to be bridged to get to a genuine Cert 1.
    It’s simply not possible, if institutions tried they would go broke.
    They know that so they don’t even try to remediate.
    Instead they fudge.
    It’s not just Batchelor, it’s every training organisation with Aboriginal students and the high schools are into it as well.
    Their rationale for fudging is that the students are disadvantaged.
    It’s easy to criticise but what’s the alternative?

  6. @ Jack. your concise explanation of a basic education is not known to, or understood by, the average punter Down South.
    “Handing out Cert I like lollies” identifies a general Commonwealth government funding weakness that crosses over from education into Aboriginal sporting grants and the sports fitness industry for employment.
    Even when a funded organisation provides training, a Cert III is not good enough to crack it for employment in the fitness industry.
    It would be very interesting to see the stats for the 70 or so graduates from the Indigenous Marathon Project on how many have gained employment as a direct consequence of their Cert III. I feel for them.

  7. It’s not a failed education system. It’s just that the people won’t go to school.
    They need to stop being pampered and get them to take responsibility for themselves.
    If the literacy of these people is only the standard of a grade 2, who is going to employ these people?

  8. NOT YET … see note to him.
    @ Fred: There are great teachers who put in 110% on communities but they are pressured by the system.
    The rotten apple here is the government grant system that fudges the results.
    Jack pinpoints it in education. I saw it over a lot of years in Aboriginal sports administration in Canberra: Low expectations and ticking KPI boxes that do not measure up.
    The 2012 audit on $2.1m in the Indigenous Marathon Project is a classic. When these issues are picked up, there is no transparency in head office.
    A cover up occurs, a new broom is put through the old organisation and it is given a fresh start without Joe or Josephine Public being any the wiser.
    The wasted, diverted and siphoned money gets lost in the wash, never to be seen again.
    And the core problem stays in the system. A sub culture that will continue to re-occur, dudding everyone – Aboriginal students, sport lifestyle trainees, teachers, coaches et al

  9. Batchelor Institute is a huge sponge soaking the dollars thrown at it with little result.
    Some 12 to 15 years ago a very nice lady was given teaching qualifications (three years as a full time Batchelor student) with all the raz ma taz to go with it, the congratulations, head nodding, hand shakes, fancy certificate etc.
    Good on her, but unfortunately she could not even fill out the simplest of forms when asked.
    What hope did the kids she was supposed to teach have in the big bad wide world?
    Overall a very expensive and sad situation. What has changed?

  10. @ Fred: There are great teachers who put in 110% on communities but they are pressured by the system.
    The rotten apple here is the government grant system that fudges the results. Jack pinpoints it in education. I saw it over a lot of years in Aboriginal sports admin in Canberra. Low expectations and ticking KPI boxes that do not measure up.
    The 2012 audit on $2.1 million in the Indigenous Marathon Project is a classic. When these issues are picked up in audits such as this one,
    there is no transparency in head office.
    Note the auditors’ concerns in Document 2 about enormous expenditure amounts in the funding columns headed “Attachment A: Expenses which do not appear to be for the purposes of the Indigenous Marathon Project” and “Attachment B: Payments for management services”.
    A cover up occurs and a secretive departmental strategy is put in place to make the problem disappear as if by magic, such as this one which went all the way up to Minister Snowdon.
    Note in page 2 of Document 3 the First Assistant Secretary’s “issues of concern to which there is an imperative to respond without further delay”.
    Note the two and a half pages of blacked out strategy that we mug punters will never be privy to.
    An official new broom is put thru the old org and it is given a fresh start without Joe or Josephine Public ever being any the wiser.
    The wasted, diverted and siphoned money gets lost in the wash, never to be seen again.
    And the core problem stays in the system. A sub culture that will continue to re-occur, dudding everyone – Aboriginal students, sport lifestyle trainees, teachers, coaches et al.
    [ED – We have offered the right of reply to the Indigenous Marathon.]

  11. @ John. Well my question is, why do we keep throwing all this money into a black whole when nothing is achieved in the end?
    Is it not time the government stopped wasting taxpayers’ money?
    In the end these people are still illiterate and the cash can be spent better elsewhere, where students want to learn and there is an outcome.

  12. You cannot keep blaming the system. That is the biggest cop out I’ve heard. Indigenous people have the best opportunity.

  13. @ Fred: It was the system at Territory Administrator level 1968-1973 in Darwin that turned a blind eye to phantom trainees on the payroll in most remote communities. Auditors John Glazebrook and Terry Oldroyd picked up 100 phantoms at a single community Docker River River circa 1970. Paid for two years. Hushed up. Buried.
    Then it was the system that turned a blind eye everywhere in the Whitlam era in the Toyota Dreaming time. I saw the scandalous projects dreamed up and funded in their hundreds.
    Who can ever forget the Angora Goat Project at Papunya? Those who saw it all unfolding and dared to protest were told to shut their mouths and labelled racist if they were white, Uncle Toms if they were black.
    This mindset has been entrenched in the system in Canberra forever now. Meeting meaningful KPIs with due diligence and Departmental transparency in the monitoring of grants are just words.
    Twisted to mean anything the system wants them to mean in any given, government-favoured project. A Wonderland fantasy.
    Good people have been trying to eradicate this cancer in the system ever since I can remember, but I fear they are not winning.

  14. There is systemic corruption at all levels of governments especially involving Higher Ed and signing up people onto courses that do not exist. It is widespread in Australia—Big International Business with a side agenda to Widen the Gap.
    In 2000 I was principal of Papunya school and backpackers were running things at the council office.
    One day after the mail plane had arrived I saw the latest new chum, office recruit staggering towards the school office with forty seven [as I remember} identical windowed pink envelopes balanced precariously in both hands with his chin holding down the pile.
    It was a scorching hot day and after climbing the stairs he lurched into the office breathlessly telling me Anangu staff told him I would know what to do with these letters.
    I flicked through the names and they were addressed to young men and women of the community. One was addressed to my son who had lived in the community for a while the previous year.
    The letter was from NCS Australasia PTY LTD
    ACN 074509792
    100 Station Street
    Nunawading Vic 3131
    The Survey run by NCVER: National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd
    CAN 007967 311
    It was a “Very Important Reminder” to fill in the 2000 Student Outcomes Survey.
    Going on to say: “About six weeks ago you were sent an important questionnaire about the training in Certificate 1 in Access To Employment and further Study you completed last year at Centralian College.
    “We do not appear to have received a completed questionnaire from you. It could be that you’ve lost it, or been too busy and simply forgotten to send it off. Etc signed by Graham Challice Project Manager.
    All the letters were the same and needless to say none of the young people had done a Cert 1 at Centralian College.

  15. I wonder if it would be possible to do an audit of all Cert 1s and 2s completed in Central Australia?
    It should be possible and it would be an eye opener and perhaps lead to a formal investigation into the institutional cheating that has been going on for many years.
    I reckon there would be thousands of useless certificates out there that have cost governments tens of millions of dollars.
    And every year there are hundreds more of them.
    Perhaps certification will have to involve a process of formal examination by an independent authority?

  16. @ John. Are telling me they are all crooked? The rest of Australia would be appalled how the tax payers’ money is being wasted.

  17. @ Fred. I can only speak from my own experience in project design and implementation across the Commonwealth public service in remote communities. Particularly in sports administration. Saw it in housing, education, health and general employment.
    I was fortunate to be in Alice in 1967 when the Training Allowance Scheme was first implemented, leading to the tsunami of idealistic and impractical project implementation madness that blossomed under Whitlam and successive governments too frightened to blow the whistle. I then saw it entrenched in Canberra through the 1980s and 90s.
    From what I have experienced, I have no doubt whatsoever that there remains a bureaucratic mindset that allows a soft, patronising approach to project design, the setting and meeting of ridiculous KPIs, the granting of huge amounts of public funding that is not properly monitored and too often written off in bad debts.
    There is a cancer in the administrative system that too easily allows government departments to paper over and whitewash financial mismanagement and cost ineffectiveness that would see ordinary citizens facing allegations of fraud if shown the light of day.
    So many of my old colleagues can cite examples that would not be believed by urbanites today.

  18. @ John: Well said. There are alot of fudged figures around the place just so people can keep their jobs.
    Can you also look into the Indigenous working for the dole? As these figures would be fudged as well.
    Signed off that they are working when in fact they are not actually working.


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