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Budget 2003: Continuing our commitment to indigenous learning.

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13 May 2003 MINBUD 35/03

The Howard Government’s eighth Budget continues its commitment to improving opportunities for Indigenous students in preschool, schooling, training and higher education, with $467.7 million in funding for 2003-04.

This highlights the Commonwealth Government’s continued commitment to reducing the gap in education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Funding in 2003-04 for Indigenous education is provided through the:

● Indigenous Staff Scholarships ($0.2 million);

● Indigenous Support Fund Programme ($24.9 million);

● Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council ($0.3 million);

● Indigenous Researchers’ Development Scheme ($0.2 million);

● ABSTUDY scheme (an estimated ($197.6 million);

● Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Programme (IESIP) ($174.2 million);

● Indigenous Education Direct Assistance (IEDA) programme ($66.3 million); and

● Indigenous VET Infrastructure Programme ($4 million).

The Howard Government’s commitment has already delivered real results for Indigenous students, with more achieving the national literacy and numeracy benchmarks. The percentage of Indigenous students staying at school until Year 12 is now at its highest level ever at 38%, and there are now record levels of Indigenous people participating in vocational education and training. Despite these gains, improvement is still required.

Under the Government’s higher education reforms, Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future, a new scholarship programme will be established for Indigenous staff in higher education to further develop Indigenous leadership in the sector. Five national scholarships will be provided each year from 2004, enabling recipients to take one year of leave from their university employment to undertake full-time higher education study.

An increase to the Indigenous Support Fund of some $10.4 million over three years will enable institutions to invest further in initiatives designed to increase the participation and success of Indigenous people in higher education, and to reward institutions that achieve positive outcomes for Indigenous students.

An Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council will be created to provide a framework for the improvement of outcomes for Indigenous people in higher education through effective consultation with Indigenous people on policy development.

New Commonwealth Learning Scholarships will also be introduced in 2004 to assist rural and regional, low-SES and Indigenous students with the costs associated with higher education.

In 2004, 2,500 new scholarships will be provided at $2,000 each to help students cover their educational costs. Another 1,500 scholarships valued at $4,000 each will be offered to assist students who move away from home with their accommodation costs.

These new initiatives complement the range of measures currently assisting Indigenous students - for example, the ARC’s Indigenous Researchers’ Development Scheme ($0.2 million) which provides competitive grants, helps Indigenous researchers to develop their research skills and compete more effectively for research funding.

ABSTUDY is another component of the Commonwealth’s commitment to Indigenous equity. It assists Indigenous students at both secondary and tertiary education levels by providing income support and supplementary benefits to address the historical disadvantages they face in education.

Over 300 education providers are funded under IESIP, including preschools, independent, Catholic and government schools and independent vocational and educational training institutions. IESIP is about improving Indigenous literacy and numeracy for Indigenous students; increasing Indigenous enrolments in education; increasing the involvement of Indigenous people in education - both as education professionals and as parents and community members; and through culturally inclusive education.

Importantly, some $0.445 million of the IESIP funding will also be provided for whole-of-government initiatives in Indigenous communities in remote areas. This involves all government agencies in a region, working together in partnership with the local Indigenous community to address local needs.

The IEDA programme supports tutors for Indigenous students and supports students and parents at school and in training. The Commonwealth has already delivered great results through IEDA with tutoring helping many Indigenous students move closer to non-Indigenous students in literacy and numeracy results.

Since 1998 the Ministerial Council of the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) has allocated $4 million each year through the Indigenous VET Infrastructure Programme to improve vocational education and training for Indigenous people. Funds are used to support a range of projects such as purchase of mobile training units, construction of training centres and purchase of training equipment.

The increased funding and significant new measures announced in the Budget will help to further improve educational outcomes for Indigenous people.

For further information:

Dr Nelson’s Office: Ross Hampton 0419 484 095

Dept of Education, Science & Training: Jane Smith 0412 973 411