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Careers Australia: Whistleblower claims private training college paid him ‘hush money’

A door-to-door sales broker who blew the whistle on major training college Careers Australia says the company paid him to keep quiet after he spoke out.

Chris Chambers went public with concerns about the recruiting practices of Careers Australia in 2015.

At the time the former marketing agent revealed sales brokers were taking entrance exams for students it wanted to sign up to hefty student loans through the Government’s VET-FEE-HELP scheme.

However, after he went public he said the college paid him $5,000 in return for signing a confidentiality agreement.

He has broken the agreement to speak out for a second time following renewed concerns Careers Australia is continuing to sign up vulnerable students to hefty loans.

“I’m absolutely disgusted with myself, so I need to obviously help and fix this situation,” he said.

“Now the confidentiality agreement to me means absolutely nothing when it comes to looking after the security of students.”

Earlier this year Careers Australia had to repay $44 million to the Federal Government and cancel 12,000 bogus enrolments after it admitted it broke consumer law.

Mr Chambers said he was concerned about the practices of Careers Australia’s new internal call centres to sign up students.

“Audit these phone calls, to actually crack down on the inducements, to actually crack down on the misleading language so you take that off the doorstep,” he said. “The misleading language is still continuing over the phone.”

He said the payment to him in the agreement with Careers Australia was an “admission of guilt” and “hush money”.

Careers Australia said the payments were not “hush money”.

“The gentleman in question worked for a broker that was employed by Careers Australia,” spokesman Gerard Benedet said.

“We only felt it right given his situation and that his previous employer [had] not given him recompense on his leave and other entitlements that we step in. We’re a generous organisation.”

More students come forward with concerns

Josephine O’Dea has accused Careers Australia of discrimination because she said the college prevented her from completing a nursing course.

Ms O’Dea signed up to an enrolled-nursing course and was almost finished when it was time to do a four-day mental health placement.

Ms O’Dea said she was a patient at the clinic for mild depression, and while she was cleared to study nursing, was unable to do a placement there because she was still on its books.

“I would no longer be able to see my psychiatrist there and I also have a support worker who calls me regularly; I wouldn’t be able to have her support as well,” she said.

Instead of finding an alternative, she said Careers Australia cancelled her enrolment.

“I have no diploma, no job prospects, but I have a looming debt of $16,000.”

Mr Benedet said the college had tried to work closely with Ms O’Dea.

“Unfortunately, Josephine did not disclose her pre-existing condition and unfortunately will not be able to finish the course,” she said.

“We’ve worked tirelessly with her to try and find a solution but unfortunately until those matters are resolved we’re not able to progress.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-14/whistleblower-claims-careers-australia-paid-him-hush-money/7626322

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