The local equine industry is still fuming after TAFE Richmond shut down its Equine Unit and all of its corresponding courses at the start of the year, blaming funding cuts. The drastic move saw 12 TAFE staff lose their jobs.
Former head teacher of the TAFE Richmond Equine Unit Karlie Triffit said that the Richmond campus was one of only two facilities in the country that ran courses on trackwork and taught students on horseback.
“We had a program called Thoroughbred Industry Careers which produced about 100 students who went on to be successfully employed in racing. There are so many young people who aren’t fortunate enough to grow up around horses, and we provided a way for them to work in the horse industry.”
She said staff were so dismayed by TAFE’s decision that they offered to step down to parttime roles. “We even spoke with Robyn Preston, the MP for Hawkesbury, to try and generate support and understanding. We were just trying to do the right thing by the TAFE and the industry, and we were treated like criminals.
“The government just wants to cut costs wherever and run it like a business, which it’s not, it’s an educational facility. TAFE didn’t listen, no-one listened, they just tied our hands and legs together and said swim,” she said.
Lindy Maurice, founder of the not-for-profit program Thoroughbred Industry Careers, which was run through Richmond TAFE, described the process of lobbying and the ultimate closure as “deflating and stressful”.
“The whole closure was all smoke and mirrors, it was like a vendetta against us. I established the program because I saw there was a gap in our industry to educate people properly, so I made it a mission of mine to try and help. All I can say is it’s devastating. Our programs were really just gaining momentum and credibility. All our students were very welleducated, well-rounded people, and they were out in the industry flying the flag and growing our reputation,” she said.
Annangrove resident Corinna Huskinson slammed the decision as “ridiculous”.
“Our farriers used to have at least one or two apprentices, but for the last six months, if not longer, they have been turning up by themselves and have found it incredibly hard to find apprentices. Between Richmond, the Hills and the Hawkesbury, every other property has a horse. It’s crazy to be shutting down equine courses in such a horse-dominated area,” she said.
A TAFE NSW spokeswoman said TAFE’s “training portfolio is aligned with emerging skills needs and changing labour market conditions”.
“This means, TAFE NSW regularly reviews the courses it offers. As a result, in Western Sydney resources have been directed into peri-urban agriculture, animal sciences, childcare, aged care, disability support, and traditional trades.”
“Almost 12 months ago, TAFE NSW ceased delivery of equine courses at Richmond following several years of declining enrolments. We will continue to review our local and state-wide course profile, to ensure our delivery prioritises the skills needs of local communities and industry. The equine industry in Western Sydney is serviced by a number of private training providers that teach the necessary skills required to work with horses,” the spokeswoman said
She said that since 2021, the NSW Government had invested more than $1.9 million at Richmond in classroom technology and new teaching equipment, including a new veterinary clinic and agricultural livestock facilities.