Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters MP, is calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Authority (ACCC) to investigate training providers in Victoria, following claims Bendigo residents have been misled into incurring thousands of dollars’ worth of debt.
“Here in Bendigo, fifty-two members of our Karen community claim they have been misled into signing up for a course they were told was free only to find out later - by text message - they had each incurred $14,000 in VET fee help debt,” said Ms Chesters.
Ms Chesters welcomed news the NSW Department of Fair Trading and the ACCC are launching a joint investigation into unscrupulous education and training providers, and called on Victoria to follow their lead.
“I am shocked vulnerable people in our community have been so ruthlessly exploited. Some cannot read, write or speak English and yet they have been enrolled on a course which will saddle them with significant debt. Many were signed up in their homes without any written information or the aid of an interpreter.
“I met with several of the students last Friday. These are people who came to Australia with almost nothing. For them to discover they owe the Australian Government tens of thousands of dollars is extremely upsetting. They told me they have been losing sleep and are anxious to cancel the debt.
“I understand the Federal Department of Education is currently investigating the students’ claims and some have successfully had their fees reversed. This whole matter is very murky indeed and that is why we need an urgent investigation by the ACCC,” said Ms Chesters.
Ms Chesters has made a submission to the current senate inquiry into the operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia.
“Unscrupulous training providers are profiting enormously at the expense of vulnerable people and taxpayers. It is my belief that our public institutions -our TAFEs, universities and colleges - should be funded to deliver these courses, not private operators,” said Ms Chesters.