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TAFE slammed over jillaroo student's death

By court reporter Jamelle Wells

Posted Friday 23 December 2011 at 4:35 pm,

updated Friday 23 December 2011 at 9:48 pm

A coroner has described a New South Wales TAFE report on the death of a student in a horse fall as being "not worth the paper it was written on".

Deputy state coroner Sharon Freund said jillaroo student Sarah Waugh died from head and neck injuries after falling from a bolting horse that was unsuitable for a beginner.

In March 2009 the 18-year-old from Newcastle was learning to ride as part of a TAFE jillaroo course at Dubbo in the NSW central west.

The coroner criticised TAFE for not being thorough enough in assessing horses used for beginner riders and said the ex-racehorse Dargo had been obtained for use just days after running in a race. 

Ms Waugh fell from the horse after it bolted in a paddock and she was unable to stop it.

The coroner said TAFE staff gave conflicting evidence at an inquest and that the teacher supervising Ms Waugh had little formal experience in teaching beginners how to ride.

Ms Freund said the TAFE investigation and report on the death was inadequate.

"That investigation and subsequent report failed to uncover or identify any failure of any workplace practices or procedures," she said.

"The investigation and subsequent report was essentially not worth the paper it was written on."

Outside Glebe Coroners Court, Ms Waugh's father Mark welcomed the findings.

"We feel relieved... relieved that the truth is finally out there. It's been a long process for us," he said.


Mr Waugh said the family would never find proper closure but hoped another death in similar circumstances could be prevented.

Her mother Juliana said she hoped her daughter's death becomes a legacy to help improve safety.

Ms Freund made a number of recommendations about policy amendments to the state education minister, the managing director of TAFE NSW, the Australian Skills Quality Authority and AgriFood Skills Australia.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has issued a statement saying the Department of Education and Communities will quickly determine how it will implement the recommendations.

"Such a devastating event should never happen again, which is why I have asked the department to report to me as soon as possible on how it can turn the recommendations into action," Mr Piccoli said.

"My condolences go to Sarah's parents, other relatives and friends for their terrible loss."

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