At 9am on Tuesday February 9, students and staff at the Australian Indigenous College in Brisbane were not to know that by lunchtime they would be forced to leave the premises of their new college.
National Manager Annette Simpson, had to urgently gather her small team of five staff and 15 students to break the news that Administrators Halls Chadwick, had arrived to close both campuses in Brisbane, and the newly opened campus in Rockhampton.
"I had no warning. They just arrived at the college, so I got the staff and students together in separate meetings and asked Halls Chadwick to explain what was going on, and so people could ask questions,” she told NITV News.
The Australian Indigenous College was just one of a number of colleges that were forced into voluntary administration last week, leaving thousands of students and staff across the country in limbo.
Media reports on the closure of the colleges have centred on inappropriate use of VET funding.
Australian Indigenous College student Bianca Chatfield told The Age newspaper, "something was wrong when the college laid off its cook and campus auntie in early December."
The college –which predominantly enrols Indigenous students – then stopped marking her work, she told The Age.
The Brisbane mother was close to finishing a diploma in business, and has been left with $16,000 in 'Vet Fee-Help' debt.
"They are teaching a diploma in business, but they didn't have business ethics," she told The Age.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority is an independent statutory agency, and regulates the Vocational and Educational Training sector across the country.
NITV News is yet to receive comment from the agency on whether they have launched an investigation.
The Federal Government released a statement to NITV News from the office of the Federal Minister for Vocational Education and Training, Luke Hartsuyker, saying;
“Australian Indigenous College (AIC) is not a registered training organisation (RTO). The department understands that AIC delivered accredited vocational education and training (VET) on behalf of Study Group Australia Pty Ltd and the College of Creative Design and Arts Pty Ltd, which are RTOs regulated by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). The department understands that an administrator has been appointed to the College of Creative Design and Arts. If the College of Creative Design and Arts ceases trading, ASQA would liaise with the administrator to ensure that its obligations under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 are met."
NITV News tried to contact students at both campuses for comment.
The Rockhampton campus only opened last month. New student, 37-year-old Jason Lawton, told the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin that, “he enrolled in the course because he wanted to have the skills to run and start his own business."
"Me and my uncle have been talking, and have an idea of what we want to do, we want to start a tour guide business and run guided tours in Carnarvon Gorge," he said.
"I hope to get my business off the ground, get started and become known…it's never too late to learn."
Annette Simpson says AIC students like Jason, will now be contacted by Study Group Australia to assist students affected by the Vocational Educational funding crisis.
On its website the group is linked to 17 colleges in Australia, and international colleges in the US, Europe and the UK.
In a statement to NITV News, Executive Director of VET at Study Group Australia, Elizabeth Lovell said, “our commitment first and foremost is to ensure that AIC students enrolled in courses continue to benefit from their engagement in education."
“Study Group has engaged with Australian Council of Private Education and Training and administrators, and is currently evaluating the means for students to continue their studies at AIC colleges. Study Group has also made contact with AIC college leadership for this same purpose”
Ms Lovell said Australian Indigenous College students, "have been contacted and will continue to receive updates over the coming weeks."
"A dedicated student call centre has also been set up to respond to student questions, and will provide whatever assistance is reasonably necessary to transition current students, and enable them to complete their studies.”