On 16 June 2009 the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and
An assessment of the adequacy of Government measures to
provide equitable access to secondary and post-secondary education
opportunities to students from rural and regional communities attending
metropolitan institutions, and metropolitan students attending regional
universities or technical and further education (TAFE) colleges, with
particular reference to:
(a) the financial impact on rural and regional students
who are attending metropolitan secondary schools, universities or TAFE;
(b) the education alternatives for rural and regional
students wanting to study in regional areas;
(c) the implications of current and proposed government
measures on prospective students living in rural and regional areas;
(d) the short- and long-term impact of current and
proposed government policies on regional university and TAFE college
(e) the adequacy of government measures to provide for
students who are required to leave home for secondary or post-secondary study;
(f) the educational needs of rural and regional
(g) the impact of government measures and proposals on
rural and regional communities; and
(d) other related matters
An interim report for the inquiry was tabled on 28 August 2009, in which
the committee extended the reporting date to 29 October 2009. On 27 October
2009 the reporting date was extended to 11 December 2009.
The committee advertised the inquiry in The Australian on 11 July
2009. The committee also advertised the inquiry in Farm Weekly (WA), The
Land (NSW), Queensland Country Life (Queensland) and Stock
Journal (SA) on 9 and 23 July 2009, Tasmanian Country (Tasmania) on
10 and 24 July 2009 and the Northern Territory News (NT) on 11 July 2009.
The committee also wrote directly to a number of key stakeholder groups, state
and federal government departments and agencies, and peak bodies inviting
The committee received 759 submissions (see Appendix 1). The committee
also decided that submissions and evidence to the committee's inquiry into the
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students)
Bill 2009 will be considered as submissions and evidence to the current
The committee held hearings in Tweed Heads on 2 September 2009, Perth on
21 and 22 September 2009, Adelaide on 23 September 2009, Albury on 24 September
2009, Townsville on 10 November 2009, Melbourne on 11 November 2009, and in
Canberra on 12 November 2009.
In this report the committee has used the term 'rural and regional' in a
general sense to denote areas which are not metropolitan areas. The use of the
term 'rural and regional' includes remote areas. The committee feels this is
appropriate, given that it intends this report as a broad overview of the
challenges facing students in rural and regional areas, and not as a definitive
analysis of particular issues facing particular areas. However the committee
notes that some evidence it received did use the terms 'rural', 'regional' and
'remote' which have specific definitions in terms of geography and/or
The committee uses 'tertiary' to denote both the university and TAFE
Scope of the inquiry
The majority of submissions to the inquiry dealt with the issue of the proposed
changes to student income support, in particular the proposed changes to Youth
Allowance. The committee has tabled a report on the Social Security and Other
Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009, which would
implement these changes.
The committee will not cover the issues covered in that report in any detail in
Although the majority of submissions related to Youth Allowance, the
committee spent considerable time during the hearings discussing the issues in
relation to the broader inquiry. In particular, the committee considered:
- the barriers that secondary schools students face in accessing educational
the financial and social costs that face rural and regional
students in accessing tertiary education opportunities, and
- the means by which regional tertiary institutions can expand
course offerings and attract greater student numbers.
Throughout this inquiry the committee has been acutely aware that
education in rural and regional areas is not something that can be considered
in isolation. Education, and in particular access to educational opportunities,
is a key factor in establishing and maintaining sustainable and vibrant rural
and regional communities.
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 of the report discusses the barriers to students in rural and
regional areas accessing educational opportunities. Key issues in that discussion
are the difficulties in attracting and retaining suitably qualified teachers to
rural and regional areas and the importance of communities to developing and
raising students' aspirations in relation to further education.
Chapter 3 of the report contains the committee's consideration of the
financial and social costs of rural and regional students accessing tertiary
education. The chapter has a brief overview of issues in relation to the
proposed changes to Youth Allowance, and considers how the inequity in tertiary
access between rural and regional, and metropolitan students can be addressed.
Chapter 4 of the report focuses on the role of tertiary institutions in
regional communities. The chapter discusses the challenges that these
institutions face in terms of funding course delivery and also look at options
for expanding course offerings and attracting students to these institutions.
Chapter 5 of the report sets out the committee's conclusions and
recommendations in relation to this inquiry.
Submissions and witnesses identified a number of previous studies and
inquiries relevant to the committee's current inquiry. This report makes
reference to the deliberations and findings of the following reports:
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), Emerging
Themes: National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education, March 2000.
- The National Centre of Science, Information and Communications
Technology and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR), The SiMERR National Survey, Prepared for the Commonwealth Department of
Education, Science and Training, 2006.
- Naomi Godden, with The Centre for Rural Social Research and
Monash University Department of Social Work, Regional Young People and Youth
Allowance: Access to Tertiary Education, November 2007.
- Victorian Parliament Education and Training Committee, Inquiry
into the Geographical Differences in the Rate in which Victorian Students
Participate in Higher Education, July 2009.
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