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Senate will inquire into rural and regional uni struggles in wake of Youth Allowance fallout

The Greens look forward to consulting with rural and regional communities through a Senate Inquiry to better support aspiring tertiary students from those areas, in the wake of the Federal Government’s changes to Youth Allowance.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Nationals Senator Fiona Nash today jointly moved a motion to establish a Senate Inquiry into the challenges facing students from rural and regional Australia in accessing higher education, which was supported by the Senate. It is due to report by August 30 2009.

“The fallout from the Federal Government’s proposed changes to Youth Allowance, including the distressed reaction from rural and regional families and teachers, highlighted the need for a closer look at the particular challenges faced by country kids who want to go to uni,” said Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Education.

“The Government has said that its Youth Allowance reforms were designed with the aim of better targeting student income support to those who are in need.

“The Greens can see there are young people in rural and regional areas who are disadvantaged because of where they live. The Government have failed to adequately target their reforms at this group of aspiring university students. And in the case of current gap year students, they feel like the Government’s collateral damage, as they will now not be entitled to the Youth Allowance they have earned.

“This Senate Inquiry will give rural and regional communities, who feel they have been forgotten in this student income support reform process, the opportunity to participate in open and transparent consultation.

“I look forward to meeting with students, parents, teachers and universities from around the country during this Inquiry, to work out the best ways forward to improve university access for all.”

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

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

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

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