Brendan Luchetti has roped himself to the cause of saving the Mountains outdoor guides course. And his fellow councillors have agreed to join him in his climb.
At last week’s council meeting the independent councillor, who looks after Ward 3 (Valley Heights to Faulconbridge) and is now in his second term on council, asked all councillors to show strong support, regardless of their political affiliation, for the TAFE Outdoor Education courses based at Wentworth Falls campus and to unanimously push for the State Government and TAFE to back the course completely for 2013.
The 43-year-old high school PE teacher has a long association with adventure activities. Photographed almost 20 years ago climbing the third sister (it is now illegal to do so), Clr Luchetti even managed to carry a barbecue in his backpack to enjoy a million dollar view and meal at the top at the time.
Ruled as a matter of “great urgency” by Mayor Daniel Myles, Clr Luchetti asked council to give “strong support to the course continuing all components in their current form” and to write to the State Government and TAFE about the dilution of the course.
“This is not a political issue,” he said. “I rise as an independent councillor . . . I have no interest in contributing to the (political) dialogue at all, but as Blue Mountains city councillors we can come at this from another level and constructively contribute to this decision and this debate.”
“The key areas of importance for me is that we continue to service the needs of the adventure tourism industries (and) the backpackers market,” he told council.
“What better place in Australia to go rock climbing, canyoning, abseiling, on a guided bushwalk or mountain bike riding than in the Mountains? These are some of the experiences offered by businesses operating, mostly in the Upper Mountains . . . that are owned and staffed by locals, better still these locals are trained locally. So people who are growing up here, who have a passion for the outdoors have had an opportunity to be trained in Wentworth Falls, then to be employed in Katoomba,” he said.
“There are not a lot of opportunities like that for the youth in the area — where they can pursue a passion and stay on the Mountains to do it.”
“It has been put to me that there is 100 per cent employment in the Certificate IV course . . . what other course in Australia could boast a record like that? We must retain these courses.”
Councillor Luchetti said, as a high school teacher, he regularly saw young people leaving school early and in need of options that courses like this one gave. Councillor Mark Greenhill agreed, adding, “TAFE tends to pick up those who may not flourish otherwise, in the world in which we live today”.
Long-standing Liberal councillor Chris Van der Kley, whose council electorate encompasses Wentworth Falls, also added his support to the cause. “I’ve been there (at the Wentworth Falls campus) in the last two months to see what they do and I totally support the staff,” he said.
Clr Luchetti’s bid was passed unanimously.
Western Sydney Institute of TAFE has not finalised the Outdoor Recreation courses for next year. In the last fortnight TAFE representatives met with industry and teachers to discuss the future of Certificate III. A spokesman said “WSI is continuing its consultations over the next few weeks ... from these consultations we will be able to provide an update on the way forward in time for students to enrol across all disciplines from November for Semester 1, 2013.”