Students launch class action after college collapse
THREE former students of Smart City have banded together to launch a class action against the failed educational provider who they say betrayed them.
Gympie's Jeanette Gerhard, Lyne Johnson and Debbie Fisher were enrolled in the diploma of counselling and were just six weeks from gaining their qualification when SmartCity Vocational College Pty Ltd collapsed.
They have contacted a lawyer and are urging other students to come forward.
The three women entered into study to "get back into the workforce" and help others.
After more than 12 months of full-time study they have nothing but debt. Between them, they have over $70,000 of debt with no reward.
Ms Gerhard, 54, has suffered more than most. As well as discovering her qualification was useless, she lost her home and everything she owned in a fire on September 23.
"I moved to Gympie from Imbil and got the transfer, paid the money, then a few months later we found out we couldn't finish our course and they were shutting down," Ms Gerhard said.
"Not long after our house burnt down. Everything we owned."
Ms Gerhard and her two grandchildren, to whom she is primary carer, narrowly escaped with their lives.
She entered study to work towards a better life for her grandchildren. She had a job lined up which fell through when SmartCity folded.
Ms Gerhard initially studied at Maroochydore campus in October 2015 before she transferred to Gympie in January 2016. She said SmartCity demanded she unenrol from her course and enrol again for the transfer to be granted. A process which cost her $7,500 on its own.
"They said that was the only way they would allow me to transfer," Ms Gerhard said.
"I wanted to do this so I could work and provide for my kids. When I pass, I don't want to saddle them with my debt. I'm no spring chicken.
"They can't knock me down any further because I was already at the bottom.
"I did it for the kids, they keep me going. They are my driving force."
Ms Johnson, 53, said they were joining forces to launch a class action against those responsible.
She said the legal case was to clear debts.
"We want to persuade people to come forward to help legal action," she said.
"These people have paid money and got nothing in return."
Ms Fisher, 47, wants the company, and those in charge held accountable. for their actions.
"I love helping people and I thought this was a great opportunity for me," she said. "Someone told me that they (the company) were in trouble while we were studying, and I actually defended them."
"I think the majority of staff were in the dark too. They were good people and I learned a lot from them."
"One day we just received a text message telling us to read our emails, which notified us of the closure. "Ms Fisher said the work she had put into study left her angry and the debt she has now accrued is a kick in the teeth.
It sent me into a depression. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer."
The national training college, based on the Sunshine Coast, reportedly pocketed more than $80 million in government funding and is no longer registered as a vocational education and training provider.
The company can still operate training, however students' qualifications will not be officially recognised.
If you want to get in contact with Jeanette, Lyn or Debbie, email email@example.com
The Gympie Times attempted to contact SmartCity Vocational College but the phone is not connected and the email address is no longer in use.