21 April 2020

TAFE NSW offering fee-free courses to help fire-ravaged communities get back on track

| Elka Wood
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Andrew D'Arnay posing on rural property in front of fire-damaged shed.

Andrew D’Arnay of Brogo is rebuilding following the bushfires thanks to a fee-free course at TAFE NSW. Photo: Supplied.

As the large-scale clean up of private properties continues throughout bushfire-affected communities, those who lost buildings from the past summer’s natural disaster can start to turn their thoughts to rebuilding.

TAFE NSW is assisting in this process by providing some elements of its owner-builder course for free, as well as other useful courses in chainsaw operation and farm fence building.

Andrew D’Arnay, a Brogo grandfather whose property was ravaged by the New Year’s Eve bushfire has already taken advantage of the offer to attain his Whitecard, a one-day course which is a legal requirement to work in the construction industry or owner-build in NSW.

Mr D’Arnay lost much of his nine-acre property in the fire, including fencing, water tanks, a shed and the verandah of the home he built himself.

Determined to rebuild, Mr D’Arnay last week completed a fee-free Whitecard course at TAFE NSW in Bega, one of a suite of courses offered by the NSW Government to bushfire-affected communities to assist in recovery.

“I need to get my owner-builder’s licence and it was great to be able to get the Whitecard at no cost,” he said. “The course was fantastic and the teacher was brilliant.

“The assistance that TAFE NSW is offering is absolutely critical to the community and it makes the lives of many people who were affected by bushfire so much easier.”

Mr D’Arnay recounted the harrowing moments when the fire took control of his property.

“I had my son, his partner and their three kids staying with me and I remember going to bed at about 10 pm thinking it was still miles away,” he said. “I woke up at midnight to hear the leaves dropping on the roof and when I walked outside I could see this eerie red glow just over the hills.

“Before we knew it, fire was falling from the sky and we just got out of there.

“We lost a small part of the house, a shed, three water tanks and all of our fencing, but I know at least 10-15 friends locally who lost their homes. It was just horrendous.”

TAFE NSW regional general manager Belinda Mackinnon said her organisation was proud to play a role in helping bushfire-ravaged communities recover.

“We recognise the enormity of the task in rebuilding these communities and we’re committed to providing residents with the skills they need to rebuild and repair critical infrastructure such as homes and businesses, and to help create new employment opportunities,” she said.

“We’ve worked hand-in-glove with local government, local people and local industry to ensure these fee-free courses are tailored to the needs of individual communities.”

As well as the Whitecard certification, the range of fee-free courses that are available at TAFE NSW in Bega include first aid, food safety supervision, licence to operate a forklift, espresso coffee-making skills, welding, asbestos awareness, business sales, chainsaw operations, responsible conduct of gambling, and agricultural chemical application.

In Moruya, fee-free courses are espresso coffee-making skills, farm fencing, responsible conduct of gambling, first aid, and responsible service of alcohol.

In Cooma, bushfire relief courses include the Whitecard, responsible conduct of gambling, espresso coffee-making skills, farm fencing, licence to operate a forklift, and responsible service of alcohol.

TAFE NSW also has a range of fee-free short courses to help those who are isolated due to COVID-19 restrictions.

To find out more about studying a fee-free course at TAFE NSW in a bushfire-affected area, phone 13 16 01 or visit here.

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