Feature Article: Responding to an ASQA notice of intent to make a decision

Feature Article: Responding to an ASQA notice of intent to make a decision

Receiving a notice from ASQA:

Under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (NVR Act), ASQA may issue notices such as a notice of intention to make a decision to an RTO as a result of an audit conducted or complaint received about your RTO by the national regulator. The NVR and ESOS Acts provides ASQA with the powers to apply sanctions of increasing severity—starting from written directions and additional conditions on registration through to suspending or cancelling a provider’s registration. In the event your RTO receives this type of correspondence from ASQA it is critical you understand how to respond to the proposed sanctions effectively to ensure you do not lose your RTO’s licence to operate.


The RTO senior leadership must immediately take action to address the issues identified in the notice and commence working on a plan to respond to ASQA. EDministrate recommends seeking legal advice if the proposed sanction refers to cancellation, rejection of application to renew registration or suspension so you are well informed and clear on your legal options. It is important that the RTO senior leadership remains calm and level headed during this time. Roles and responsibilities of staff involved in contributing to your RTO’s response to ASQA must be clearly defined and expectations communicated to ensure the actions taken are appropriate. If you are the CEO of a small RTO with little or no other senior staff you may consider seeking the support of external consultants such as EDministrate to help you plan your response and next steps.


One of the first steps that should be taken in this matter is to identify internal capability within your RTO. Do you have the expertise in house to prepare your response to ASQA and take the required actions i.e. rectifications and remedial action? If not seek assistance from compliance experts such as EDministrate. While your RTO must continue to operate business as usual while you respond to ASQA’s notice you need to ensure that this issue is given absolute priority in your business so you meet the required deadline and you satisfactorily address all issues identified by ASQA .


If there are extenuating circumstances preventing you from providing your response to ASQA by the deadline given you must contact them immediately to request additional time so that they can consider your case. Failure to do this could have an adverse impact on you successfully addressing the issues identified and meeting the required timeframe. It is also critical that you develop a communication strategy to address any concerns your students or other clients may have should they become aware of proposed action against your RTO. It is extremely important that you manage any potential reputational damage that could be caused by regulatory action taken against your RTO to limit any negative impact on your business.





Student VET FEE HELP debt to the tune of $493 million wiped by Canberra so far this year and more to come

The effects of the now defunct VET FEE-HELP scheme is still being felt three years after the government scrapped the program as more people discover they were duped by shonky private training providers. It could take up to a year to assess thousands more unresolved complaints according to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and this is due to the unprecedented volume of people coming forward now seeking to have their debts re-credited.

Trashed visa system fuels human trafficking, exploitation and slavery

Department of Home Affairs officials have confirmed that around 95,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia by plane over the past five years, which Labor claims is fuelling “exploitation and slavery”:

The figures were disclosed in answers to Questions on Notice from Labor’s spokesperson for Home Affairs and Immigration Kristina Keneally.

“There’s nothing wrong with claiming asylum. It’s an important right,” Senator Keneally said.

“However, in 90 per cent of these particular cases, the individuals are not legitimate refugees and are often being trafficked to Australia for the explicit purpose of being exploited”…

Labor is warning Australia is on track to post a new annual record for asylum seeker arrivals by air.

It said 4,037 aeroplane arrivals have made a claim for protection between 1 July 2019 and 19 August 2019…

Senator Keneally has called the figures a crisis, citing concerns for those arriving by plane being exposed to “exploitation, slavery and even sexual servitude across the country”…

“The truth is we have no idea how many aeroplane people may have been critically injured or even died … because of exploitation and slavery that is taking place under his nose”…

Its chair Liberal MP Jason Wood issued a warning over criminal syndicates exploiting vulnerable arrivals.

“Organised crime and illegitimate labour-hire companies are using this loophole to bring out illegal workers who are often vulnerable and open to exploitation,” he said.

“This enables these criminal elements to exploit foreign workers in Australia until their claims are finalised.”

John Coyne, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s head of border security, recently raised similar concerns:

“Organised crime are indeed facilitating unlawful migration on a fee-for-service basis, using methodologies from fake identity documents, to gaming Australia’s visa system”…

“Australia’s border security arrangements are being exploited, and individuals who have not been appropriately identified are at times entering the country”.

“The Australian black economy is indeed being supported by organised crime, who along with businesses involved, are using these methods to exploit workers, and those involved are not paying taxes and are often remitting their salaries out of the country”…

The best graphical illustration of the rise in ‘plane people’ entering Australia is the explosion in Bridging Visas, which are typically handed to migrants awaiting decisions on permanent residency through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT):

As shown above, the number of Bridging visas on issue has roughly doubled since the Coalition was elected in 2013, numbering 205,000 as at June 2019.

Back in July, former High Court Justice, Ian Callinan claimed that the AAT has been inundated with spurious asylum seeker claims, fuelled in part by organised criminals:

[Ian Callinan] said “almost everyone” with migration law experience had told him there were applic­ants and representatives who “game the system, well knowing there is an automatic entitlement to a bridging visa”.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority told Mr Callinan that delays had repercussions beyond the AAT. It told him it was aware that organised crimin­als were sometimes, “perhaps even regularly”, benefiting from fake vocational training prog­rams or “ghost’’ colleges…

The AAT now handles about 59,000 lodgements a year: more than half (52 per cent) are migra­tion and refugee cases…

The AAT’s caseload of migra­tion and refugee matters doubled in the two years to June 30 last year…

Thus, while the Coalition pretends that it is strong on border control because it has “stopped the boats”, bogus asylum seekers are pouring into Australia via plane.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that Australia’s borders have become increasingly porous, with visa scamming occurring through a variety of channels, including:

  • Migrants arriving by plane lodging bogus asylum applications;
  • International students undertaking spurious courses for working rights and subsequent permanent residency;
  • Illegal labour hire firms, people smugglers and criminal syndicates facilitating undocumented migrants to work for below market rates; and
  • Businesses using pretend ‘skills shortages’ to hire temporary migrant workers at below market rates.

The visa rorting is systemic and has permeated across the entire Australian economy.

And now we’re going to privatise it?


3 vital skills for the age of disruption

Kid Creativity Education Concept, Child Learning Art Mathematics Formula, School Boy Ideas on Black Chalk Board
Continuous learning is vital to avoid a fixed mindset.                    Image: inarik – stock.adobe.com

The human race has seen more social and technological change in the past two decades than in all previous centuries combined. Things are changing so fast that we barely have time to steady ourselves after one technological wave, before another washes up on deck and sweeps us off our feet again.

It’s easy to see why this is happening when we look at technological development in historical terms. Older technologies, like the telephone and the car, were adopted by consumers gradually, over time, sometimes over decades. Newer technologies, like the cell phone and social media, spread seemingly overnight, taking almost no time to go from invention to universal use.

Today, each new technology scales with bewildering speed. It is no longer an adoption curve; it’s an adoption rocket. With AI, genetic engineering and robotics on the anvil, this pace is unlikely to let up anytime soon. It’s disrupting political, economic and social systems as well as cultural norms and social roles.

It is also taking a toll on each of us psychologically and emotionally.

Disruption: in business, education, and everyday life

Examples of this disruption abound. The impact of social media on the Brexit election and across the world has yet to be completely understood and poses the question: Are free and fair elections still possible? Even the creators of these digital technologies have limited understanding of them and in some cases lose control when AI algorithms take over, as with the awkward situation that arose when the recent Notre-Dame fire was algorithmically and inappropriately classified with a very different kind of conflagration, the 9/11 attacks.

As an educator, I’ve seen schools stockpile technology and then struggle to bring it to life in a meaningful way to improve learning. The money spent hasn’t translated into large-scale value creation. It reminds us of author Peter Drucker’s words: “Do not confuse motion with progress.”

During a recent car ride (Lyft) in Manhattan, I learnt from the driver that one of his friends is filing personal bankruptcy because he acquired two New York City cab medallions for $800K about a decade ago, and now with ride-share services gaining popularity the medallions are worth a fraction of the price he paid. Disruption can happen fast and hit us in the face. With self-driving cars just round the corner, even the Uber/Lyft drivers will soon be facing disruption.

The above three examples from different settings highlight the forces of disruption and the need for us to recast our political, educational, and economic systems. Creating change on one dimension is a daunting task. Imagine doing that on multiple dimensions.

If we don’t change ourselves, it will be impossible to change the systems and institutions that govern and enable us. Rapid learning and rapid execution are keys to staying ahead.

Three key skills

There are three key attributes that I’m convinced we must cultivate in order to take on the challenges the fast-paced disruptive world throws at us: learning agility, resilience, and grounded optimism.

1. Learning agility: This is the ability and willingness to learn and then apply that learning effectively to prevail even in unfamiliar situations. The seeds of lifelong learning come from curiosity. Curiosity is the innate urge to know, the spark that drives us to explore, discover, invent and reinvent. Today, as we get older, most of us don’t make a point of nurturing our curiosity. But we will have to do it and get better at it. If we don’t learn, how will we evolve? If we end up with a fixed mindset, it will be harder to adapt, evolve and excel.

As Alvin Toffler predicted: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

How can one develop learning agility?

• Be curious – start by asking “why?” Do it continually.

• Explore. Try new things and engage with different types of people.

• Reflect. Cultivate self-awareness. Make yourself do this. Actively seek feedback and help. See failure as learning.

A Harvard Business Review article on “Improve your ability to learn” calls out Innovating, Performing, Reflecting and Risking as key learning ability enablers.

2. Resilience: This is the quality that enables one to bounce back when knocked down by life. It helps us to endure and thrive. In a disruptive world, coping with stress and catastrophe are vital, as adversity and new challenges become mainstays of life.

Resilience is important in personal life and business. Take a quick test to see where you stand on three key attributes of resilience: challenge, control and commitment.

How can you build resilience?

• Practice cognitive reframing. Learn to make the mental shifts necessary to identify the upsides and not just the downsides of a difficult situation.

• Avoid the victimization mindset (“Why is this happening to me?”) It’s not helpful.

• Meditate.

3. Grounded optimism: Optimism is the propensity to anticipate the best possible outcome. Grounded optimism is where that optimism has a healthy dose of realism and pessimism blended in with it. Grounded optimists are wired to take the positive emotion and convert that into tangible action leading to realistic solutions.

Optimism can be learned. Martin Seligman, who is considered the father of positive psychology, introduced the concept of learned optimism based on his research on learned helplessness. Stanford has a survey based on Martin’s research to analyse one’s mindset – the pessimist-optimist spectrum.

How to build grounded optimism?

• Focus on the positive.

• Read about optimists and keep company with people who have both an optimistic and realistic outlook.

• Be mindful. Mindfulness is a skill, and there’s a lot to it. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you cultivate it.

As we dive deeper into the 21st century (shorter product life cycles, breaking business models, competing against machines), IQ alone will not be sufficient to help us adapt. A healthy dose of EQ (emotional intelligence) and RQ (resilience quotient) are critical as we chart our courses.

Today, we live in a “VUCA” world, characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In this world, it isn’t how hard you fall or how many times you fall, but how fast you get up that matters. Are you ready to unleash the VUCA warrior in you?


Why tech skills aren’t the key to success in a digitalising workplace

Swinburne University director Dr Sean Gallagher. (Source: Yahoo Finance)
Swinburne University director Dr Sean Gallagher. (Source: Yahoo Finance)

More than half of Australian workers are concerned that artificial intelligence, or automation, will threaten their job.

And you might think that the way to protect yourself from that is to brush up on your technological or digital skills, or head back to school.

But this may not be what protects you at the end of the day, according to Swinburne University director Dr Sean Gallagher.

Speaking today at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in Sydney, Gallagher said it’s your humanity that will see you get ahead – and you’ll learn more at work than you will in the classroom.

“In increasingly digital environments, we need to be increasingly human in order to be able to compete, and to work effectively,” Gallagher said.

How Aussie workers are adapting to digital technology

One way Australian employees are preparing themselves to adapt to digital technology is by learning on the job and turning their backs on formal education.

“When you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to change jobs, or maybe seek a promotion or to deal with a new circumstance, at work, we went back to college or to TAFE or even to university,” he said.

“But … All Australian workers, to prepare for the future of work, want to learn on the job.”

And the more disruption, the more these workers want to stick to their guns and learn on the job to prepare for the future, he added.

“When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Work is where the disruption is happening. Not in the classroom.

“The classroom is becoming further away from that wayfront of disruption.”


Australia’s ‘toxic kitchen culture’ to cause major chef shortage

A University of Queensland researcher believes “toxic kitchen culture” is partly to blame for a predicted shortage of almost 60,000 chefs in Australia by 2023.

About 80 apprentices interviewed in Brisbane and Melbourne, aged between 17 and their mid-30s, had experienced sexual violence threats, bullying and intimidation tactics that led to “fearfulness” in their job.

A former chef and UQ researcher Richard Robinson is calling on the hospitality industry to "step up" in breaking the toxic kitchen culture in Australia.
A former chef and UQ researcher Richard Robinson is calling on the hospitality industry to “step up” in breaking the toxic kitchen culture in Australia.CREDIT:JESSICA SHAPIRO

Apprentices from Sydney would be interviewed in the coming weeks to add to the data being collected by associate professor and UQ research fellow Richard Robinson.

He had interviewed more than 40 chefs in the past year, including TAFE cookery teachers, for the ongoing analysis into the mental health and wellbeing of chefs.

Dr Robinson said the culture was partly to blame for high staff turnover rates and apprentices leaving the industry, following baby boomers retiring and the natural decline of enrolments.

His research, funded by William Angliss Institute, showed hospitality had one of the lowest retention rates of any industry.

“What we’ve increasingly discovered through our research is mental health and wellbeing with chefs, is they are extremely vulnerable and threatened by this toxic kitchen culture,” Dr Robinson said.

“It’s quite frightening for the youth of today because throughout their schooling, parenting and sports clubs, they have been conditioned to identify harassment and bullying and they have been given the tools to sort it out but somehow when they enter these kitchens, they go to custard.”

Pushing people to the edge

Dr Robinson said research from the Department of Jobs and Small Business labour market research and analysis branch this year showed there would be a shortage of 59,500 chefs by 2023.

Dr Robinson, who spent 18 years as a chef and food service manager, said mental health trauma being caused by this culture was “tipping people off the edge”.

“It’s hard enough working in kitchens where employees are standing over a stove for hours and feeling hot, sweaty and time pressured,” he said.

“There are aspects that are never going to change and the occupation is stressful enough so this toxic kitchen culture is only adding an extra and unneeded layer on top of that.”

Dr Robinson said the culture needed to change to avoid a shortage of chefs.

“The data is showing us that a chef leaves the industry about five years after getting their qualification and that’s a huge investment,” he said.

Life in a professional kitchen can be too much for many trainee chefs.
Life in a professional kitchen can be too much for many trainee chefs.

“The other factor is the number of apprenticeship commencements is declining rapidly.

“The startling statistic at the moment is that about 30 per cent of apprentices who commence training don’t complete it.

“But if you compound that with relentless harassment – I frame it as sexual violence – it will continue to worsen.”

Women experience threats from superiors

Dr Robinson said with women making up less than 25 per cent of chefs in Australia, they experienced gender discrimination, violence and harassment.

“Young female apprentices are being threatened with rape if they don’t do their job,” he said.

“Another has said she was complaining about period pain and the chef asked her to show him the evidence.

“What we’re hearing are practices that are completely unacceptable.”

Dr Robinson said these behaviours were more extreme in high-end restaurants and hotels.

“Chefs are ambitious and extremely passionate to work in the best places to help their CV and career to progress but what they’re prone to tolerate a lot more and put up with wage theft as we’ve seen recently in Melbourne,” he said.

Dr Robinson suspected some aspects of the culture and job had since “cleaned up”, but his data showed the toxic kitchen culture was still prominent and had become “more subtle and disguised”.

“What appears as a functional shopfront is not necessarily what you find in the back,” he said.

“Having said that there has been an increase in regulation and chefs are no longer expected to work six days a week where it was a given back in the day.”

Industry says tertiary education expectations, not toxic culture, is the issue

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said the 60,000 shortfall figure was lower than he expected, but he did not believe it was due to a toxic culture.

“Hospitality will see a shortage of over 120,000 staff from front and back of house due mainly to the well-advertised national attitudes towards VET [Vocational Education and Training] and TAFE and funding, especially from the government, for people to go to higher education,” he said.

“This is how us, as an industry, are seeing and hearing from our members as well as all organisations that monitor it.

“The drop of students are just being misused and being directed to universities for other reasons unrelated to what the researcher may have noticed.

“It’s a stretch to go from 80 apprentices divided by the expected 123,000 shortages, which is the largest of any industry, is such a tiny sample size.”

Trainee chefs at TAFE.
Trainee chefs at TAFE.CREDIT:JIM RICE

Mr Lambert said there were fewer enrolments in TAFE, cooking and hospitality courses.

“We are losing more workers in our industry than what is available to take in jobs,” he said.

“The slowdown in immigration due to current immigration law is another reason why we don’t have enough skilled workers.

“To say a toxic kitchen culture is the reason for the decrease is not what the industry is telling us.

“In fact, the (Department of Justice and Equality) had a report that was released that states hospitality is one of the closest to a 50-50 workforce of Australia.”

Mr Lambert said industry had improved in recent years and mental health was “certainly on the radar” of restaurant owners, HR departments and businesses.

He said counselling would be sought if employees experienced difficulty in the stresses and strains of the jobs.

“I’ve never heard of our members experiencing it (harassment or bullying) but when it is well-publicised, it’s a talking point that is addressed with ongoing initiatives by businesses,” he said.

Work pressures and bullying

However, Australian Culinary Federation Queensland president Bruno Gentile said a mixture of toxic kitchen culture, workload and personal challenges were ongoing issues that restaurant owners were battling.

“Pressures of work itself and individuals turning to drugs and alcohol and experiencing bad mental health are relevant issues that associations are trying to address,” he said.

“Only a handful of people have rung me (about harassment and bullying) or asked me for advice on issues, more so on bullying.”

Mr Gentile, who has been in the industry for 40 years, agreed with Dr Robinson’s research regarding some improvements in the industry.

“I think people are now employing more chefs in the kitchen to reduce those crazy hours,” he said.

“Weekends are more acceptable to have time off whereas it was virtually impossible back in the day.

“In relation to the bullying and harassment and pressures in the kitchen, I think a lot has come down to what it was years ago.”

Research to create strategies

Dr Robinson said his analysis of his research was still in its early stages but saw a strong pattern.

“If things were getting so much better, why is there so much evidence of chefs leaving in droves?” he said.

“Our evidence to date suggests there are more chefs than educators and actually are active in socialising toxic kitchen culture rather than diffusing it.

“Rather than accusing apprentices of not being resilient, the industry needs to step up to the plate and make kitchens a better proposition for young people.”

Dr Robinson hoped to develop interventions, including training models and coping strategies to empower apprentices.

He would also investigate the development of a best practice kitchen management online module.