Making it easier for regional students to access tertiary education (part 2)

24/8/2018

Despite the disparities regional families, students and schools often face, I want to congratulate our regional schools for their commitment to academic excellence. One of my local schools in Albany, the Albany Senior High School, celebrates 100 years this year and is a testament to the success of regional education. Among a long list of very highly regarded alumni, I want to mention one of the graduates, Alan Carpenter, who was the Premier of Western Australia for many years in the mid-2000s. In 2017, Great Southern Grammar was one of the top schools, based on the number of eligible year 12 students, that achieved a WACE completion rate of

98.8 per cent. In that same year, 2017, four schools in O'Connor were ranked in the top 60, based on ATAR median scores, with Manjimup Senior High School ranking incredibly at No. 8 and Great Southern  Grammar coming in at No. 30.

This bill revolves around parental income, how to access independent youth allowance and how it should be tiered based on this. Some may think $150,000 combined parental income is high enough for families to be able to support their children while at university, but the national average cash income of a registered nurse is around $75,000 and for a policeman it's around $90,000. That means the combined national average income in the partnership of a policeman and a nurse is $165,000. Under the system, any child of a nurse and a policeman would not be eligible to receive youth allowance because the combined gross parental income of those two professions is above the $150,000 cap. People providing essential services to regional Australia have struggled to offer their children the opportunities for tertiary education under the existing system. The changes this government  is proposing mean that, for an average two-child family of a nurse and policeman, their children will be able to qualify for independent youth allowance for the first time.

I applaud the quality of our regional students. They are distinguished by their excellent academic achievement, qualifying for university places only to be hampered in their aspirations by the tyranny of distance from their desired course and the inherent financial barriers to obtaining self-sufficiency. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Student Reform) Bill 2018 and its proposed increase to the combined gross parental income cap is a welcome change and another step in the right direction to see regional students given equal access to tertiary education. I strongly endorse the legislation to the House.

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