Federal court upholds ASQA decision

15 March 2022

A unanimous decision of 3 Federal Court judges has dismissed an appeal from ASQA’s decision to reject the renewal of registration of Site Skills Group Pty Ltd (SSG) as a vocational education and training (VET) provider. SSG will no longer be able to operate as a registered training organisation (RTO) in Australia. 

The Federal Court decision of 9 February 2022 to dismiss the appeal comes after a lengthy history of legal proceedings and regulatory decisions, including ASQA’s decision of 18 April 2018 to reject SSG’s application to renew its registration as an RTO on the basis of findings of non-compliance with the Standards for RTOs 2015.

SSG applied to have this decision reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in April 2018. The AAT affirmed ASQA’s decision on 30 November 2020 and found that SSG had failed to comply with its obligations under the Standards for RTOs 2015, and that SSG’s sole director and former Chief Executive Officer, Mr Vernon Wills, was unable to satisfy Fit and Proper Person Requirements.

In 2017, ASQA cancelled the registration of Productivity Partners Pty Ltd (PP), another RTO and subsidiary of the same parent company of SSG, Site Group International (SGI), based on evidence of systemic non-compliance with the VET Quality Framework – including activities as a provider under the VET FEE-HELP scheme. This included a finding that of more than 7,500 enrolments with PP, for which students were charged more than $55,554,000, only 124 students completed a single unit of competency, and only 36 students were issued with training qualifications. While ASQA’s decision in relation to PP is still before the AAT, evidence in the PP matter became relevant to the AAT’s consideration in affirming ASQA’s decision regarding SSG.

ASQA’s CEO Ms Saxon Rice welcomed the Court’s decision.

“ASQA is committed to ensuring quality VET so that students, employers, government, and the community have confidence in the integrity of national qualifications issued by training providers. 

“In order to do this, it is imperative we maintain essential safeguards by ensuring national standards are met and that individuals running RTOs meet the necessary Fit and Proper Person Requirements. 

“Our decisions are risk-based and proportionate, and support confidence in a strong VET sector that delivers quality training outcomes and equips Australia’s workforce with the skills needed to grow Australia’s prosperity now and into the future,” said Ms Rice.

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