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Greens join with Coalition to move for Inquiry into rural, regional uni struggles

The Greens have joined forces with the Coalition to move for a Senate Inquiry into how to better support rural and regional students in the wake of changes to Youth Allowance.

Today Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Nationals Senator Fiona Nash gave notice of motion to refer the Youth Allowance changes’ impact on rural and regional students to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee.

“The obstacles to accessing higher education for young people in rural and regional Australia deserve proper examination through a Senate Inquiry,” said Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Education.

“The frustrated, angry reaction we have heard from young people, their families and teachers in rural and regional areas indicated to us that the Government had not properly thought through the impact of their proposed changes to Youth Allowance.

“The gap year has long been used as a legitimate way for young people to take a year to work, qualify as Independent and become eligible for income support while they study, especially if they must move out of home to attend university.

“Now that the Government is proposing the gap year become a thing of the past, we need to look at what young people in rural and regional Australia need to be supported in pursuing their university dreams.”

Senator Hanson-Young said the Greens would still move to amend the retrospective effect of the workforce participation eligibility criteria being removed from January 1 2010 when the legislation reaches the Senate.

“Moving the goalposts halfway through the game for this year’s gap year students is just not fair play,” she said.

“The Greens will move to push back the start date of the new eligibility criteria to 2011.”

The proposed Inquiry’s Terms of Reference are as follows.

That the following matter be referred to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by 30 August 2009:
An assessment of the adequacy of Government measures to provide equitable access to secondary and post-secondary education opportunities to students from rural and regional communities attending metropolitan institutions, and metropolitan students attending regional universities or TAFE with particular reference to:
a. the financial impact on rural and regional students who are attending metropolitan secondary schools, universities or TAFE;
b. the education alternatives for rural and regional students wanting to study in regional areas;
c. the implications of existing and proposed Government measures on prospective students living in rural and regional areas;
d. the short and long term impact of current and proposed Government policies  on regional university and TAFE college enrolments;
e. the adequacy of Government measures to provide for students who are required to leave home for secondary or post-secondary study;
f. the education needs of rural and regional students;
g. the impact of Government measures and proposals on rural and regional communities; and
h. other related matters.

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