Wednesday, 11 August 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education, Senator McKenzie. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Liberal-National government is working to improve the disparity between city and country students as highlighted in the national regional, rural and remote higher education strategy?
I thank Senator McGrath for his question. As someone who grew up in regional Queensland, he knows the challenges. I'm sure that's why he continues to support the Isolated Children's Parents Association, who recently celebrated 50 years of advocacy for access to education for people who live, work and invest in rural and regional Australia.
The Liberal-National government know the challenges faced by regional families trying to ensure that their children receive a quality education. We know, for example, that many rural families with children at both government and private boarding schools are struggling with the impact of state border closures and quarantine arrangements as a result of the latest COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. As the newly appointed minister for regional education, I've called an urgent meeting this Friday to hear directly from parent groups and state border commissioners on how we can work together with states and territories on commonsense solutions.
There is more to do. The Liberal-National government are getting on with the job, and that's why we're committed to improving education access and quality for all Australians, no matter where they live. Since 2016, our government has invested more than $1 billion to improve high-level tertiary education outcomes and opportunities for regional and remote Australians—more than any Labor government. Labor like to champion their record in education, but, it seems, that's only if you live in capital cities.
Part of this $1 billion investment includes more than $400 million in regional measures to support the Napthine review. The measures seek to address the disparity that has consistently existed between city and country students and provide additional investment to boost regional development and student aspiration. We know that regional students are twice as likely as metropolitan students to move to study and that they have lower education attainment rates, which is why we have a raft of financial support measures to assist them.
The Liberal and National government understands that not all students can or want to move away to study. The Nationals in government know that many regional students want to stay local to access higher education. That is why the $74 million Regional University Centres program includes funding for additional Commonwealth supported places locally. We know that if students are educated in the regions they're much more likely to stay in the regions.
The centres provide student support services, pastoral care, study advice, support to develop writing and research skills, and essential infrastructure such as study spaces, video conferencing, computers and high-speed internet access. Importantly, they're community operated to respond to the specific needs of the community, like the ones in your home state, Senator McGrath, in Goondiwindi, Roma, St George and Dirranbandi. In 2021 the program is supporting more than 1,900 students to access higher education. (Time expired)
Thank you for another great question, Senator McGrath. It's our government that is supporting low SES students access higher education—and we're very, very proud to do it. The Napthine review identified that rural, regional and remote students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds often face cumulative challenges that can make it difficult to access and complete their higher education. Data shows that these students have lower participation rates than those from major cities.
Consequently, students from these backgrounds require additional, focused and tailored support to help them thrive in tertiary education. That's why our government funds the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, which plays a significant role in supporting public universities to implement strategies to improve attainment and retention outcomes, targeted at those from low-SES backgrounds and rural and regional areas. It is one of five measures that forms the new Indigenous Regional Low SES Attainment Fund that broadens those existing programs. Geography should never be a determinant for your education— (Time expired)