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Torres Strait students return home for Christmas.

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Minister Ludwig’s media contact: Sarah Cosson 0423 823 843 Mr Turnour’s media contact: Melinda Connolly 0414 268 348

MEDIA RELEASE Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig Minister for Human Services Senator for Queensland

Jim Turnour MP Member for Leichhardt

Thursday 4 December 2008

Torres Strait students return home for Christmas

The Australian Government is helping almost 650 students from the Torres Strait return home for Christmas, following the grounding of Aero-Tropics in September.

Emergency plans were put in place to help students travel to and from boarding school, following the collapse of the Torres Strait’s main air service provider.

“In September, ABSTUDY boarding school students were left stranded on remote island communities due to the unexpected disruption to air services,” Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig said.

“Centrelink, with Qantas, acted swiftly to ensure all students affected were provided with other options to enable them to resume the fourth school term.”

“The Rudd Government is committed to providing students in remote communities with access to quality education.”

“Now Centrelink is coordinating travel plans to assist almost 650 ABSTUDY students get home for the Christmas holidays.”

“As one of the main carriers for these students, the loss of the airline service could have presented real difficulties for these students.”

“But Centrelink has secured alternate flights for students returning to the Torres Strait.”

Charter operator Barrier Air is working closely with Centrelink to ensure students return to their homes on Thursday Island, the Northern Peninsula and in Cairns.

Member for Leichhardt, Jim Turnour, said the majority of senior students have already arrived home.

“Centrelink has worked hard to make sure these students can be home to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones,” Mr Turnour said.

“The final group of students will join their friends and family by the end of next week.”

“Centrelink has done such a great job to ensure minimal disruption and inconvenience to students and their families.”