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Youth allowance changes will trigger crisis in regions.

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Monday August 17, 2009



Youth Allowance changes will trigger crisis in regions

Doors are opening at the highest levels for a group of Victorian parents and students lobbying for a fair go for rural and regional families under changes to the Federal youth allowance.

Today (Monday) they arrive from Shepparton in northern Victoria to Canberra for meetings with Family First Senator Steve Fielding and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard in their bid for equity for country students leaving home for university.

They have also arranged to meet with Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and their local member Dr Sharman Stone at Parliament House.

The group says Julia Gillard’s proposals are a huge disincentive for country students to gain a tertiary education and warn that middle income country people will be the new under-class and country areas will become backwaters.

The group is calling on the Deputy Prime Minister to amend her youth allowance proposals to include a living away from home clause for any student who needs to relocate more than 80km from home to attend university. They say these students should be automatically eligible for the youth allowance.

The group includes parents Di Doyle and Lisa McKenzie, gap students Samantha Threlfall and Talitha Gollan, year 12 student Trent Doyle and Jennifer Hippisley of the Goulburn Murray Local Learning and Employment Network.

They warn proposed changes to youth allowance will severely disadvantage middle income families and turn professional people away from country areas.

“There is gross inequity in the proposed changes that will see average wage earners in country areas denied access to youth allowance despite the huge costs of sending offspring away to university,’’ explained Lisa McKenzie.

“Many of these families simply can’t cover the $15,000 to $20,000 it costs each year to send a child away to university and that doesn’t include HECS. And it is

impossible for most students to study full time and pay their own way,’’ Samantha Threlfall said.

“The average wage in Australia is over $50,000. Two average wages combined exceeds the cut off for receiving youth allowance under the proposals, but earn nowhere near enough to keep two or three children away at university,’’ Mrs Doyle said.

Mrs McKenzie said rural and regional students receive lower average ENTER scores and are already less likely to go to university than their metro counterparts.

”Many country kids are now in the process of downgrading their aspirations. They plan to stay in rural areas and compete for limited jobs rather than burden their parents with the $60,000 to $80,000 to study for a degree.

“We already struggle to attract professionals in rural areas. The promise of crippling debt is not much of a drawcard for a professional couple with three children to relocate from the city to a country town, ‘’ Mrs McKenzie said.

“And our children will be denied the chance to attend university and return to be our doctors, physios, accountants and engineers.’’

“Rural Australia is facing a crisis if this legislation goes forward,’’ Mrs Doyle warned.

Release ends The Canberra meetings are scheduled from 10am until 1pm on Monday. For more information call Lisa McKenzie on 0427 212651.