LLENs in danger

Ararat LLEN manager James Skene discussing the organisation with Steve Herbert

Ararat LLEN manager James Skene discussing the organisation with Steve Herbert

REGION - Central Grampians Local Learning and Employment Network will cease to exist by the end of 2014 if the Napthine Government does not increase its funding, according to Shadow Minister for Higher Education Steve Herbert.

The recently released budget saw the federal government slash its funding for all Victorian Local Learning and Employment Networks, leaving the local organisation in limbo and Mr Herbert said it was time for the state government to 'step up'.

Mr Herbert was the chief of staff to Higher Education Minister Lynne Kosky in the late 1990s when LLENs were first developed and from 2001 to 2013 the state government was the major funding contributor with $7.3 million budgeted to the 31 organisations.

"Last year the state relinquished 75 per cent of its LLEN funding to the federal government," Mr Herbert said.

"It wasn't an issue then because the LLEN had the money to keep doing the great work they were doing, but of course now the federal government has cut its funding completely they are in an awful position where they can't survive on 25 per cent funding ($2.5 million from the state).

"The whole program is now at risk."

The CGLLEN offers a variety of programs to youth across the Ararat and Stawell communities that teach general life skills and provide them with confidence and ownership.

Executive officer James Skene said it was business as usual at GCLLEN with programs continuing to run, however the uncertainty of its future was causing staff retention issues.

Mr Herbert said action is required immediately.

"This is a decision that really needs to be made in the next couple of months," he said.

"After two or three months you are going to start to see programs winding down, there are leases that have to be re-let, there are staff contracts that have to be re-done.

"This is an issue for this government, this is an issue for right now.

"What does that mean for communities of Ararat and Stawell? The Central Grampians LLEN is one of the most highly successful LLENs in Victoria.

"They have a whole range of programs, offer mentoring to people who often have poorer backgrounds with lower education, they lift aspirations for young people, they take kids on the street and get them engaged, they give at risk students the opportunity to work in industry and learn some trades - basically they are a core in these communities.

"They are incredibly vital and without that central funding they can't continue."

Mr Skene has been in consultation with other LLEN leaders from across Western Victoria including the South West, Glenelg Southern Grampians, North Central, Wimmera Southern Mallee and Northern Mallee regions.

The group, along with the other organisations across Victoria have said that $13 million funding annually over the next four years is required to continue providing services.

"So we are taking about $8-10million extra in state government funding and when you think that, the training budget is $1.2billion or you talk about NMIT up the road and the state government lent them $16million just to keep going, it is not a lot of money when it comes to the state government," Mr Herbert said.

"If the state government don't step up and re-fund then this LLEN is gone by Christmas, as are other LLENs across the state, and there will be a massive vacuum in Ararat, Stawell and right across Victoria for organisations that are doing the multiple programs to engage young people.

"I'd like to see every young person, every person that has had some benefit or had a helping hand on the road to success through a LLENs program write to (the Victorian Minister for Higher Education, Nick Wakeling) tell their story and urge him to provide the extra funding."

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