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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1784

(Question No. 165)


Senator Reynolds asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 27 March 1985:

(1) Will the Minister for Education instigate an inquiry within her Department about the criteria for geographic isolation as detailed in the Assistance for Isolated Children 1985 booklet.

(2) How many Australian children, by State, are receiving assistance under the assistance for isolated children scheme.

(3) What is the breakdown of these figures in relation to:

(a) distance from nearest school;

(b) availability of appropriate transport; and

(c) special conditions.

(4) Is there a need to look at the sliding scale, which genuinely recognises isolation on the basis of distance from school or transport, rather than a uniform allowance, which pays the same amount regardless of whether a student lives 16 or 160 km from appropriate schooling.


Senator Ryan —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) There are no plans to set up an inquiry within my Department into the criteria used to determine geographic isolation for the purposes of the assistance for isolated children (AIC) scheme. Any move to direct resources to such an inquiry would need to be based on evidence that the criteria currently being applied were inappropriate. I am not aware of any evidence to suggest that those criteria, which were determined in close consultation with State and Territory authorities, are not operating satisfactorily.

(2) The latest figures available to me in the detail requested by the honourable senator are those for 30 June 1984. The numbers of children, by State, attracting 1984 benefits under the Scheme by that date are shown in Table (i) below:

Table (i)

TOTAL STUDENTS ASSISTED

New South Wales 5,261 Victoria 860 Queensland 5,983 Western Australia 4,913 South Australia 792 Tasmania 629 Northern Territory 881 Australian Capital Territory 46

Australia 19,365

(3) Of the 19,365 students attracting benefits by 30 June 1984, 13,559 met the normal distance requirements for geographic isolation. Table (ii) below provides a breakdown of this figure according to distance from school and distance from available transport. Individual State breakdowns are then given in Tables (iii)-(ix). (There are no children qualifying on these grounds in the Australian Capital Territory.)

The remaining 5,806 were students who qualified for boarding, correspondence or second home allowance under special conditions (about half of them handicapped children needing access to special facilities), or who attracted one of the two minor allowances (the Pre-School Correspondence Allowance and the Short-Term Boarding Allowance). A breakdown of these by State is given in Table (x).

Table (ii)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-AUSTRALIA

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 209 550 759 4.5-6.4 49 579 71 126 825 6.5 and over 50 1,878 380 2,286 4,594 No transport 72 1,271 342 5,696 7,381

Total 171 3,728 1,002 8,658 13,559

Table (iii)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-NEW SOUTH WALES

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 96 173 269 4.5-6.4 22 310 31 52 415 6.5 and over 27 784 135 732 1,678 No transport 25 193 46 638 902

Total 74 1,287 308 1,595 3,264

Table (iv)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-VICTORIA

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 8 11 19 4.5-6.4 1 42 7 5 55 6.5 and over 3 65 15 32 115 No transport 3 27 11 47 88

Total 7 134 41 95 277

Table (v)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-QUEENSLAND

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 39 84 123 4.5-6.4 15 106 16 19 156 6.5 and over 9 530 121 764 1,424 No transport 32 645 154 2,140 2,971

Total 56 1,281 330 3,007 4,674

Table (vi)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 44 140 184 4.5-6.4 2 85 16 42 145 6.5 and over 6 335 82 611 1,034 No transport 2 225 80 2,005 2,312

Total 10 645 222 2,798 3,675

Table (vii)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 10 7 17 4.5-6.4 3 26 1 3 33 6.5 and over 4 96 10 42 152 No transport . . 70 17 164 251

Total 7 192 38 216 453

Table (viii)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-TASMANIA

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 . . . . 7 135 142 4.5-6.4 6 8 . . 5 19 6.5 and over . . 58 14 68 140 No transport . . 22 6 149 177

Total 6 88 27 357 478

Table (ix)

STUDENTS MEETING NORMAL ISOLATION CRITERIA-NORTHERN TERRITORY

Distance from school (km)

Distance from transport (km)

16-18.9 19-55.9 56.0-60.9 61 and over Total

0.0-4.4 - - 5 - 5 4.5-6.4 - 2 - - 2 6.5 and over 1 10 3 37 51 No transport 10 89 28 553 680

Total 11 101 36 590 738

Table (x)

STUDENTS OTHER THAN THOSE MEETING NORMAL DISTANCE CRITERIA

Special Pre-School Short-term

conditions correspondence boarding Total

New South Wales 1,938 - 59 1,997 Victoria 581 - 2 583 Queensland 727 575 7 1,309 Western Australia 859 28 351 1,238 South Australia 339 - - 339 Tasmania 151 - - 151 Northern Territory 110 33 - 143 Australian Capital Territory 46 - - 46

Total 4,751 636 419 5,806

(4) No. Once it is established that a child does not have reasonable daily access to government schooling, the degree of isolation of the family home is not an essential factor in determining the cost of obtaining access, except insofar as travel expenses are involved. The AIC scheme has never been designed to provide assistance with travel costs; by agreement, these have remained the responsibility of State authorities.

The scheme assists with the costs of boarding, of correspondence study or of maintaining a second family home from which the child can attend school daily. The costs involved in obtaining access to schooling for a particular student depend largely on which of these three options is chosen. The scheme recognises this fact by providing different types and levels of allowance in each of the three situations.

There is also provision in the framework of the boarding allowance for taking into account the different levels of boarding cost incurred for individual students, as well as the capacity of their families to meet those costs.