IT STARTED slowly, with a smattering of union members setting up shop to welcome protesters at the Mt Helen campus of the University of Ballarat.
They were there to greet the cabinet members as they arrived for the regional sitting of the State Parliament.
Flags of all hues fluttered in the wind, representing different unions including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and United Voice, formally the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union.
And then the buses started arriving carrying members and students from Geelong and elsewhere.
Each arrival was met with applause and loud whistles.
Balloons and banners from ‘Ted Faillieu’ to ‘Don’t Wreck TAFE’, started going up.
But having Premier Ted Baillieu on the doorstep was too good an opportunity to miss for anyone with an axe to grind.
The small area into which the crowd was corralled soon became a common ground for a disparate group of people.
There were bikies there to rally against the government’s impending decision to ban outlaw motorcycle groups and others wearing animal masks protesting against gold mining in the Wombat forest.
Construction workers on-site at the campus also decided to show their support, joining the rally during their lunch break.
Ballarat resident Dennis, who didn’t want to give his last name, said his wife worked at Geelong TAFE and would lose her job before Christmas.
A tech school graduate himself, he said kids needed to study at TAFE to be able to join a trade.
“Kids today need a pathway if they want to do a trade,” Dennis said.
Organised by the Ballarat SAVE TAFE committee together with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Australian Education Union (AEU), the rally was in protest against the $300 million state budget cuts announced in May.
The University of Ballarat, which operates dozens of TAFE courses in Ballarat and western Victoria, is facing a deficit of $20 million.
It has announced that up to 60 programs would no longer be offered at the TAFE due to the funding cuts.
Speeches by students and various union leaders were met with applause and chants of “One Term Ted” and “Save TAFE”.