December 6, 2013

TAFE changes lives

By Warren Easterbrook

TAFE changes lives. It is the backbone of communities around Australia. It is a world-class asset. TAFE teachers say these things because they see how TAFE transforms their students’ lives every year. Warren Easterbrook, a teacher at Glendale TAFE, not only sees his students flourish and grow, but is abundantly aware of how TAFE has shaped and supported his family for four generations.

At the outbreak of WWI in 1914, Warren’s grandfather and his older brothers enlisted to fight for Australia. Remarkably, they all survived and returned to normal life. Warren’s grandfather found himself skill less, but the local RSL sent him to “night school” at Ultimo in Sydney and he became a painter and decorator. He forged a successful career, married and started a family prior to the outbreak of WWII when he again enlisted with his brothers; and his eldest sons.

Again, the Easterbrook family all returned safely to Australia. By this time, Warren’s father was not doing so well in school. Following in his father’s footsteps he too went to Ultimo night school, and along with his brother both qualified in the family trade and became painters and decorators. The brothers (Warren’s father and uncle) both ran successful businesses in Sydney, raised families, and flourished.

Warren upon finishing school did not follow into the family trade, but did follow in his grandfather and father’s steps into TAFE. Upon finishing school Warren commenced an apprenticeship with a local GMH dealership as a spray painter. It was while attending Granville TAFE that Warren realised that teaching was the career he wanted. His apprenticeship and TAFE education led to him working his own contracting spray painting business – and eventually returning to TAFE part time as a teacher. “Teaching at Liverpool TAFE in 1981, working with Vietnamese refugees cemented my desire for TAFE to be my chosen career,” Warren says “And after going through trade testing I became a full time TAFE teacher and in 1984 started teaching at Glendale TAFE. I am now just completing my 29th year.”

TAFE continues to support the Easterbrook family – Warren’s three children have all completed TAFE courses. His sons are now an electrician and a plumber respectively and his daughter has just completed her CIII in Business Administration.

Warren is a passionate advocate for TAFE, recognising what it has done for his family - “Four generations of my family owes our success, our contributions to society, our contributions to the success and development of our great country to TAFE. TAFE has been the backbone for generations within my family and I wonder, and I know that my family wonders, what will be there for my grandchildren? Governments past and present have lost the plot with all community based training organizations preferring greed over compassion and opportunities, compassion and opportunities put there by the people, for the people.”

There are countless families around Australia who like Warren recognise their success is borne out of TAFE. Australians trust TAFE, they know it provided an education for them, their parents and their grandparents. Relying on TAFE for quality, affordable education may not be possible for future generations if funding cuts and misguided policy settings continue. Courses are being cut, dedicated TAFE teachers like Warren are losing their jobs and campuses are closing.

When we spoke to Warren he told us “Last night, when I came home after a TAFE community forum I spoke to my son and nearly shed a tear. He said: ‘Dad- these Governments are committing a national crime on the future of Australia and Australians.’ Well... what could I say, but ‘Son, you are exactly correct.’ “