The 2018–19 Budget includes a number of measures to increase
assistance to Indigenous students and students from regional and rural areas
and to prevent students from accessing student payments if they are undertaking
courses not approved for the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP).
50 years of ABSTUDY
The Budget includes a $38.1 million measure over four years
to provide additional assistance to Indigenous secondary school students who
receive assistance through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Assistance
Scheme (ABSTUDY) program. The ABSTUDY program assists
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices where they need
to travel for study.
The precursor of ABSTUDY, the Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme
was introduced in 1969 as part of a Gorton Government ‘commitment to implement
special measures to assist Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people to achieve their educational, social and economic objectives through
financial assistance to study’. The grants scheme was
initially limited to tertiary students. A scheme for secondary students was
introduced from 1970 and the two were amalgamated into ABSTUDY in 1988.
Today, the ABSTUDY scheme consists of seven different
‘awards’ which provide a range of allowance payments for students and
apprentices with eligibility for a particular award depending on the
individual’s study, training and personal circumstances. The allowances are
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of ABSTUDY in 2019, the
- combine the boarding supplement rate with the Living Allowance at
the Away from Home rate for all ABSTUDY recipients under 16 years of age—rates
will increase by around $5,258.60 per year for almost 1,900 students
- implement new travel arrangements for secondary students
receiving Fares Allowance with increased trips and greater flexibility for
students travelling to or from locations other than home and school
- provide more frequent payments to boarding providers to support
students who move to a new school or boarding arrangement and encourage
providers to ensure continued attendance
- streamline the ABSTUDY approval process for secondary school
- no longer apply the maintenance (child support) income test to
some ABSTUDY awards.
Most of the changes will not require legislation as ABSTUDY
is administered through policy guidelines approved by the Minister for Social
Services. The maintenance income test changes require legislation.
Access to Youth Allowance for rural
The Government will raise the family income limit that
applies to regional students claiming ‘independence’ for Youth Allowance
purposes by supporting themselves through paid employment. A young person
considered independent for Youth Allowance does not have their parent’s income
taken into account when determining their rate of payment.
There are different criteria under which a person can be
considered independent and one such route is through participation in paid
work. This criterion can satisfied either through full time paid work for at
least 18 months in any two year period, or through two less restrictive ways
that apply only to students in regional and remote areas:
- over a 14 month period since leaving secondary school, earn 75
per cent or more of Wage Level A of the National Training Wage Schedule
included in a modern award (for someone who finished school in 2016 this would
be equivalent to $24,042) or
- work at least 15 hours a week for at least two years since
leaving secondary school.
For regional and remote students to be eligible for these
two self-supporting independence criteria, their parent’s combined income for
the financial year before the calendar year they apply for Youth Allowance must
be less than $150,000. This parental income limit was introduced from January
2011, after the then Labor Government attempted to remove the less restrictive
self-supporting criteria altogether but eventually negotiated to save the
income-limited version for regional and remote students.
This Budget includes a measure to raise the limit to $160,000 (plus $10,000 for
any additional child) and to assess the income for the financial year preceding
the student’s self-support period.
The Government has stated that this measure is part of its response
to the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education undertaken
by John Halsey. However, the report of
the Halsey Review did not raise the income limit as a matter of concern nor did
it recommend amending the limit.
The measure will allow more regional students from families
with high incomes to qualify for Youth Allowance. The measure will cost $53.9
million over four years from 2018–19 and will require legislation.
Limiting student payments to
The Government estimates it will save $101.1 million over
five years by limiting eligibility for student payments for higher education
courses to students undertaking courses approved for the HELP. The measure was
first announced in October 2017 but not detailed in the December 2017 Mid-Year
Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The new limits for
students in higher education builds on a 2017–18 budget measure which limited
access to student payments for vocational education and training (VET) students
to those studying courses approved for VET student loans.
Affected student payments are Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY and the
Pensioner Education Supplement.
While courses at all public universities and some private
higher education providers are approved for the HELP (available to domestic
students only), a small number of private providers are not approved. The
Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency lists 169 registered higher
education providers in Australia while the Australian Government’s StudyAssist
website lists 147 providers approved to offer Commonwealth assistance (through
The measure has already been implemented via a legislative
instrument which commenced on 1 January 2018. The Government estimates
that up to 2,000 students will be affected by the changes.
Student payment recipients studying at non-HELP approved providers were
protected from the measure for the duration of their current course.
The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following
document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures:
budget paper no. 2: 2018–19, pp. 94–95, 170–171.
Department of Human Services (DHS), ‘ABSTUDY’,
DHS website, last updated 7 May 2018.
Department of Social Services (DSS), ABSTUDY Policy Manual,
DSS, Canberra, 1 May 2018, p. 6.
Ibid., pp. 6–7.
A 2016 study of Northern Territory boarding schools suggested some
were focused on pursuing enrolments for funding purposes and that students were
returning to their communities after a short time. J Guenther, G Milgate, B
Perrett, T Benveniste, S Osborne, and S Disbray, ‘Boarding
schools for remote secondary Aboriginal learners in the Northern Territory: smooth
transition or rough ride’, Australian Association for Research in
Education Annual Conference, Melbourne, November 2016, p. 7
measures, factsheet, DSS website, May 2018, pp. 1–2; DHS, 50
years of ABSTUDY — strengthening ABSTUDY for secondary students,
factsheet, DHS, May 2018, pp. 1–4.
DSS, ‘188.8.131.52 YA
& DSP – Self-supporting through Paid Employment’, Guide to social
security law, DSS website, last reviewed 7 May 2018.
J Gillard (Minister for Education), Government
delivers on Youth Allowance, media release, 16 March 2010.
Australian Government, op. cit., p. 94.
J Halsey, Independent
review into regional, rural and remote education: final report,
Department of Education and Training, 2018.
C Porter (Minister for Social Services), Improving
outcomes for students through a stronger student payments system, media
release, 16 October 2017.
Australian Government, Budget measures:
budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, p. 144.
Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), ‘Search the National Register’,
TEQSA website, 2017; Australian Government, ‘Providers
that offer Commonwealth assistance’, StudyAssist website.
Assistance (Education Institutions and Courses) Amendment Determination 2017
Porter, op. cit.
All online articles accessed May 2018
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