Chapter 12 - Youth and student issues
12.1 Many young
people face the risk of poverty: Mission Australia estimated that around 15 per
cent of all young Australians in the 15 to 24 age group experience a mixture of
intermittent and or/entrenched poverty on an annual basis.
There are numerous causes of youth poverty: leaving school early and
experiencing poor work prospects; homelessness; and failing to make a
successful transition from school to work.
12.2 The transition
from study to employment has become increasingly complex and less predictable.
In the past, young people who left school early could undertake apprenticeships
and find full-time jobs while those who finished secondary education could also
find full-time work, or go onto further training or tertiary studies. Today,
those making the transition from school into the workforce face the same
problems as older Australians such as greater numbers of part-time, temporary
and casual jobs and declining numbers of jobs in certain sectors such as
manufacturing. This increases the risk of poverty.
12.3 These changes
have had a great impact on young people who fail to complete secondary
schooling with clear evidence of higher rates of unemployment in this group.
Those continuing with further education and training post-school also face numerous
problems: living on income support; balancing study and part-time work; and finding
adequate accommodation. This is often a very difficult task particularly if
there is little or no family support.
Rates of poverty
12.4 Young people
aged 15 to 24 years experience a high poverty rate in Australia. The poverty
rate for all 15 to 24 year olds was 15.9 per cent in 2000. Single young people
experience a poverty rate of 20.8 per cent compared to a rate of 18.3 per cent
for all singles. The estimated number of young single men in poverty in 2000
was 164,000 and young single women 102,000.
12.5 The high rate of
poverty is in part due to young people generally having lower incomes as they
are at the start of their careers or fill low paid jobs while they are
studying. Young people also face high unemployment rates. However, it was noted
that the apparently high youth poverty rate has to be treated with some caution
as about half of all single 15 to 24 year olds in poverty are non-dependent
children still living at home with their parents. While it cannot be assumed
that their parents are always willing or able to offer financial support, in
many cases young people receive free or subsidized housing, meals and utility
expenses thereby increasing their standard of living.
12.6 The Department
of Family and Community Services (FaCS) commented on the different patterns of
family support for young people:
Consequently, not only are short-term measures of income a poor
guide to living standards, but they also can provide a very misleading
perspective on the real circumstances of the individual and their outcomes over
12.7 While it is true
that for many young people measures of income are not a completely accurate
guide to their long term outcomes, the structural changes in the labour market
over the last two decades have made it difficult for many young people to make
a smooth transition from school to work. Many who have left school early find
themselves trapped in a cycle of unemployment, part-time work and labour market
programs rather than constructive career development.
The impact of poverty on young people
12.8 The Committee
received much evidence on the impact of poverty on young people. Of most
concern was the impact on the education of young people and therefore their
employment prospects. Witnesses painted a bleak picture of young people
struggling to continue their education and training in households where there
is very little money for even the basic necessities of life. As has already
been noted in the Committee's chapter on education, low income families find it
difficult to fund the educational needs such as uniforms, books, excursions and
12.9 For many young
people leaving school early is an easy option. However, without an adequate
education there are very few opportunities for a successful working career. The
labour market in Australia has changed and unskilled young people face the
prospect of few full-time jobs and many part-time or casual jobs. Young people
can obtain income support but witnesses noted that parental means testing of
Youth Allowance recipient families with young people up to the age of
25 can place undue stress on families on low incomes. (Income support is
discussed in more detail later in this chapter.) The low level of income
support and deterioration of the youth labour market inhibits young people's
move towards independence and places further strains on families who might
already be suffering financial hardship.
12.10 Many examples
were provided of young people forced out of home due to family breakdown and to
financial stress. Where young people are forced into inappropriate and
transient accommodation or even homelessness, maintaining an educational
program or a job is extremely difficult. SACOSS stated:
By the time you reach our service, school is one of the last
things on your mind, and they have been out of that system for a long time. You
cannot sustain education if you have nowhere to live and you cannot sustain
education and keep up with your peers if you are moving. Again, it goes back to
the transitional housing, the lack of response and the lack of ability for
people and families who are very poor to be able to stay in one place.
affordable and secure accommodation is a major issue facing young people,
particularly those in low paid work, insecure employment or who receive
government benefits. The Smith Family noted that many younger single people are
struggling in the private rental market. Low income young singles have the
highest rate of housing stress of any type considered by The Smith Family study
Barriers to Participation, with almost four in every five low income
young singles reporting housing costs that exceed 30 per cent of their
12.12 The Hunter Council
of Social Services commented:
...the youth Newstart Allowance and even those who get their
independent rate, the living away from home rate, or the homeless rate, as
people like to know it, accommodation is the same cost regardless of the income
you get from Centrelink. For a young person who is homeless, to access
accommodation is near impossible–a one-bedroom flat is around $110 to $150. An
adult has got a higher chance of getting it purely because the income they
receive from Newstart is a higher amount purely based on age.
12.13 The Doctors
Reform Society noted that young people are often pushed into boarding houses
'that could be totally inappropriate for a young person because they are unsafe
or they are in share accommodation with older people where they can be
12.14 Homelessness may
become the only option for young people who cannot find affordable
accommodation, who face discrimination in the private rental market or who have
no income because of breaching:
I don't have a house 'cause you stopped my payment and I could
not pay rent.
12.15 The extent of
youth homelessness is found in SAAP data which indicated that assistance was
provided for 32,800 young people in the year ending 2002. Mission Australia
stated 'given the likelihood that large numbers of young people don't formally
seek assistance through housing agencies, these figures can be considered as
12.16 The Australian
Federation of Homelessness Organisations (AFHO) recommended that a more
equitable means of determining the level of public housing subsidies available
to young people on very low incomes such as through the use of a sliding scale
measure of housing affordability, associating rent levels to income levels.
12.17 Poverty and
unemployment also can impact on the personal development and health of young
people. Work provides avenues for skill development, responsibility, avenues
for decision making and social interaction. These are important in developing a
sense of adulthood and independence. For some unemployed youth, lack of
developmental opportunities and isolation may lead to mental health problems.
One Australian study, which examined mental health of unemployed youth, found
that the majority of unemployed youth with psychological problems were not
suffering from these problems prior to unemployment. Another study found youth
who become unemployed after leaving school suffered from greater unhappiness,
boredom, anger with society, loneliness and helplessness than employed school
12.18 There is
evidence to suggest that unemployment, combined with other disadvantaging
factors, may result in youth engaging in crime.
Research also indicates that the longer people stay in school, the less the
likelihood of the criminal incidence of property crime.
12.19 Other witnesses
also emphasised the link between poverty and youth crime.
There is a strong link between poverty and crime. During our
research into young women’s legal needs we discovered that
100 per cent of young women charged with serious offences indicated
that they had no income. Forty per cent of young women charged with
lesser offences indicated that they had no income. Young people who are poor
are very vulnerable to homelessness and criminal activity.
12.20 Often young
people start with petty crime then move onto more serious offences. The justice
system may provide first time offenders with rehabilitation but when they are
released into the community there is no support and no prospect of employment.
St Vincent de Paul commented in these cases young people cannot cope with being
out in the community again with no hope of getting any sort of job.
Resource Centre in Perth provided the Committee with this disturbing evidence
about two brothers who sought their assistance:
are both physically underdeveloped, due to inadequate food and poor nutrition
in early childhood, and the eldest is experiencing ongoing dental problems as a
result of this. They are both uneducated. School has been a terrible experience
for both the boys as the family was unable to provide adequate clothing and
resources such as textbooks, pens, paper, uniforms, those sorts of things,
which has isolated them from their peers in the school environment. Both the
boys left school before the age of 13 and both of them now struggle with their
levels of numeracy and literacy.
Both the boys were living on the streets by their 13th
birthday, with no social or material support. The eldest lived on the streets,
sleeping in car parks and abandoned buildings for nearly a year, with no income
whatsoever. At times he was forced to steal and was involved in sex work also.
His involvement in the sex industry has adversely affected his capacity to form
meaningful and trusting relationships. His involvement in crime is going to
have a dramatic impact upon his future, due to his criminal record, and he has
unpaid train fines totalling around $15,000.
When the boys were finally granted Centrelink payments
there were occasions where the parents actually misappropriated those funds. In
spite of the years we have worked with them and the efforts to get them secure
in long-term stable accommodation, we just have not been able to do so. This
example is not something that is unusual within the centre. It is something
that goes on all the time. It is just a single example of what we have to deal
with every day.
Committee Hansard 28.7.03, p.997 (Passages Resource Centre).
12.22 The costs of
criminal activity are high not only in personal terms for the young person
entering the justice system but also in economic terms:
We are determined to ensure that the young people we support
keep out of the prison system. We know that prisons are popular; they are
growing so rapidly, it is hard to keep up with it. But youth workers are a much
more cost-effective way of supporting young people than prisons. It costs $60,000
a year to keep a person in prison, so if you put those 50 young people in
prison, it would cost $3 million a year rather than the $200,000 that we spend,
and we think it is very cost-effective.
12.23 There are also a
number of long term consequences of youth poverty and unemployment. Once out of
the workforce, reemployment may become harder due to low self-esteem and
isolation. Some youth, disillusioned with the prospects of employment, may opt
out of the labour market altogether. These youths need to re-establish
connections with the labour market, but may not have the ability to do so. Many
welfare organisations recognise the need to build self-esteem, to overcome the
stigma associated with unemployment, poverty and homelessness and to address
the many other problems faced by youth in poverty.
12.24 For youth who
experience unemployment, there is evidence that they are more likely to
experience low hourly wages, underemployment, repeated unemployment and
increased periods of unemployment. They become part of the 'working poor' and
may lose skills or fail to develop new skills. This captures young people, and
ultimately their families, in a cycle of poverty.
12.25 The way out of
poverty for young people is a successful transition from school to work. This
requires the provision of adequate full-time employment, youth who have
adequate skills and educational standards to find employment, and pathways so
that the transition from school to work is successfully negotiated. For those
who do not find employment there must be adequate income support to lift them
out of poverty.
Youth labour force participation
12.26 Chapter 7
provides a detailed examination of the relationship between education and
poverty and improving access to education. The following discussion adds to
that picture and provides details on youth labour force participation and in
particular details of young people considered at risk of not making a
successful transition from school to work.
15 to 19 year olds
12.27 In July 2003,
around 70 per cent of teenagers (15-19 year olds) were in full-time education.
Of the other 30 per cent, almost a quarter were in part-time education, with
the remainder not participating in education.
12.28 While many
teenagers studying full-time are not in the labour force (56 per cent in July
2003), others engage in part-time employment.
12.29 In July 2003,
teenagers had an unemployment rate of 13 per cent and a participation rate of
57 per cent, compared with an unemployment rate of 6 per cent for adults.
However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that teenagers have more
transitions between labour force states than adults, reflecting the seasonal
nature of combining work and study.
12.30 The proportion
of young people aged 15 to 19 years not in full-time education or full-time
employment varies across the States and Territories. Victoria has a lower
proportion than the national average while, Queensland, South Australia, the Northern
Territory and Western Australia have high rates.
The Queensland Government noted that there were approximately 10,000 young Queenslanders
aged 15-17 who are not in school, vocational education or substantial
employment and who are at considerable risk of poverty.
12.31 The Dusseldorp
Skills Forum stated that those teenagers who are in part-time work, looking for
work or are defined by the ABS as being 'not in the labour force' are 'likely
to be experiencing difficulty in making a successful transition from secondary
education, and face a higher level of risk in the labour market over the
long-term than their counterparts who are engaged in education or training'.
12.32 The Dusseldorp
Skills Forum provided an analysis of what happened to young people who left
school in 2001 which indicates those at risk of having a less successful
transition from school to work:
- Year 10 completers – 29 per cent went to another educational
provider, in most cases TAFE by May 2002; 49 per cent were unemployed, in
part-time work or defined as not being in the labour market;
Year 11 completers – 36 per cent continued in education, mostly
TAFE; 36 per cent were unemployed, in part-time work or defined as not
being in the labour market; and
- Year 12 completers – 68 per cent continued in education, mostly
higher education; 19 per cent were unemployed, in part-time work or defined as
not being in the labour market.
12.33 Those groups
most at risk of failing to complete secondary schooling were:
- males – in 2003, 26 per cent of males left school early compared
to 16 per of females;
- students from low socioeconomic backgrounds;
- students whose parents worked in unskilled manual positions (26
per cent of early leavers compared to 15 per cent of early leavers whose
parents were form professional or managerial occupations);
- Indigenous youth;
- English speaking youth - those students who do not speak English
at home are more likely to complete both year 12 and participate in tertiary
12.34 For many 15 to
19 year olds, TAFE is an alternative for staying in secondary school. However,
in 2002 only 50 per cent of the 15 to 19 age group in the TAFE system successfully
completed their studies.
12.35 For those who
completed a full course in 2001, at May 2002 nearly a third were in part-time
work, 15 per cent were unemployed and 12 per cent were not in the labour force
(a total of 58 per cent). For those who only completed part of a course, a
total of 70 per cent were in part-time work, unemployed or not in the labour
12.36 For those
teenagers in employment, they were employed predominantly in the retail sector
(52 per cent), with the hospitality and manufacturing sectors employing 9 per
cent and 7 per cent respectively.
20 to 24 year olds
of young adults in May 2003, had left full-time education. Compared with
teenagers not in full-time education, young adults not in full-time education
were more likely to be in part-time work, unemployed and not in the labour
12.38 The Dusseldorp
Skills Forum stated that the high proportion of non-student young adults in
part-time work, especially young women, reflected a fall in the availability of
full-time jobs held by this age group. Full-time jobs held by non-students aged
20 to 24 years fell by 15.2 per cent between 1995 and 2003. The number of young
people in part-time jobs in Australia is high compared to other OECD countries
– Australia ranks third behind France and Sweden.
12.39 As with
teenagers, retail was also the largest employer of 20-24 year olds (22 per
cent) followed by property and business services (13 per cent) and
manufacturing (8 per cent).
rates for young people declined between 1992 to 2002, with the rate for 15-19
year olds changing by 32 per cent and for 20-24 year olds by 39 per cent.
However, groups facing higher unemployment rates can be identified with young
people who leave school early being especially vulnerable to unemployment.
Young Indigenous people also face very high rates of unemployment.
12.41 The duration of
unemployment for young people is declining, in part due to the increase in
part-time work. However, large numbers of young Australians remain unemployed
for long periods. The average duration of unemployment for 15 to 19 year olds
while looking for work in 2002 was 20.4 weeks (down from 30.9 weeks in 1992).
20 to 24 year olds were out of work for an average of 35.5 weeks in 2002 (down
from 45 weeks in 1992).
12.42 FaCS also commented
that youth and young people have benefited from improving economic outcomes and
that the teenage full-time unemployment rate has fallen. However, it stated
that as most young people are not in the full-time labour market, this type of
measure can be misleading and the experience of youth is better gauged by the
teenage full-time unemployment to population ratio. This has more than halved
from 10.1 per cent in July 1992 to 4.3 per cent in July 2002.
12.43 The Business
Council of Australia found that seven years after leaving school, approximately
7 per cent of those who completed year 12 were unemployed. But for early school
leavers, unemployment is a likely prospect: after seven years, 21 per cent of
young men who left school in year 9 were unemployed; and 59 per cent of young
women who left in year 9 were also unemployed.
12.44 Mission Australia
drew attention to the dangers of continuing high levels of youth unemployment:
Our view is that the higher the youth unemployment and youth
poverty, the more likely we are to have intergenerational poverty 20 and 30
years down the track. One of the reasons we have it at the moment is that we
have not brought back our youth unemployment rates as quickly as some other
economies over the last 15 or 20 years.
Access to full-time employment
12.45 The general
decline in the number of full-time jobs for the 15 to 24 year age group has
made the transition from school to work more difficult. Over the period May
1995 to May 2003, the number of full-times jobs available to those aged 25
years and over increased by 12.1 per cent. During the same period, the number
for teenagers declined by 6.9 per cent and for young adults by 15.2 per cent.
12.46 The measure of
the proportion of non-students in part-time work compared to other OEDC countries
shows that Australia, based on data for 2001, ranks second behind New Zealand
out of 19 countries in the proportion of 20 to 24 year old males who are not in
education and who are in part-time work.
12.47 Some of the
increase in part-time work in the 15 to 24 age group can be accounted for by
increases in youth attending education institutions and working part-time.
However, there is a large proportion of young people who are not combining
part-time work with study. They would rather be working full-time. Mission Australia,
for example, noted that young people are 'cobbling together several jobs to
enable them to earn a liveable income'.
In addition, of the 24 per cent of males and 22 per cent of females in 2001 who
were not studying, less than half had full-time employment; 'thus for these
youth part-time work was not accompanied by part-time education'.
12.48 Anglicare NT
also argued that wage rates and casual employment reduce the motivation for
young people to take up work as 'young people see little value to themselves
very often in terms of their lifestyle and have very limited understanding
perhaps of the longer term benefits of going onto a youth wage or taking up
casual employment and resist perhaps the challenge that that offers'. Employees
may also be less willing to persevere with young people as they are an easily
replaceable employee group. Anglicare NT stated that there needs to be better
incentives to employ young people and ensure that they are not just replaced
when they are moved over into something other than the youth wage.
Improving the transition from
school to work
12.49 For the past two
decades, governments, both Commonwealth and State and Territory, have focussed
on improving the transition from school to employment or further education and
training. In 1991, the Finn Report recommended targets for increasing school
and post-school participation rates by 2001, to place Australia among the best
qualified of OECD countries:
- 95 per cent of 19 year olds participating or having completed
year 12 or the equivalent level in vocational education and training; and
- 60 per cent of 22 year olds participating in or having completed
education and training programs leading to the level of a trade certificate or
higher to diploma or degree levels.
The Dusseldorp Skills Forum noted that these targets have not
12.50 In its report on
skills, the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations and Education References
Committee noted that there had been many initiatives to improve youth
transition. Some of the initiatives included the MCEETYA declaration Stepping
Forward – Improving Pathways for All Young People; VET in schools program;
and, the availability in most jurisdictions of some transition programs and a
focus on broadening the purpose of post-compulsory years of education and
training for those in the 15 to 19 year old age group.
12.51 At the present
time, the Commonwealth has in place a number of programs to enhance youth
labour force participation. These include:
- Job Network, Job Placement, Employment and Training (JPET)
- work experience and development programs including Work for the
Dole and Green Corps;
- assistance that empowers young people to make appropriate career
choices, including funding to the Enterprise and Career Education Foundation
- the Career and Transition (CAT) Pilots; and
- support for specific groups, such as the Jobs, Education and
Training (JET) program which includes assistance with child care.
12.52 The Ministerial
Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs has established a
taskforce on transition from school to work. The Taskforce provides advice on:
- implementation of VET in schools;
- arrangements in place for students undertaking part-time New
Apprenticeships in order to raise the profile of this pathway in post-secondary
education and training;
- impact of an increasing range of education and training pathways
in senior secondary schooling on participation measures;
- initiatives to address student transition from school to post
- vocational learning and enterprise education initiatives;
- quality career services;
- student support services based on local school community
partnerships, especially for young people who have left school early; and
- development of attitudes, skills and disposition for life-long
learning post-year 12.
12.53 The Senate
Committee acknowledged the efforts of the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions
to improve youth transitions. But the Committee indicated that there was a need
to go further and adopt a more systematic and integrated approach if further
progress is to be made in increasing the number of young people completing 12
years of school or equivalent vocational education and training within the next
12.54 One pathway is New
Apprenticeships. It provides a pathway into the full-time workforce for many
young people, enabling them to combine work with formal training. New
Apprenticeships are complemented by youth wage policies that allow employers to
offer wages consistent with young people's lower skills and experience. Youth wages
help to ensure the existence of entry-level jobs for young people. FaCS noted
that over time, with increasing workplace experience, most young people will
move on to more complex jobs with commensurate increases in remuneration. These
wages, and the apparent welfare outcomes for youth, need to be judged on a
longer term basis.
12.55 The Committee's
report also provides a detailed examination of New Apprenticeship. The
Committee concluded that the system needs adjustment to 'better fit the new
context provided by a highly competitive market place, the more diverse but
less certain career choices available for young people, and the need to retain
12.56 The Committee
reported that there were concerns that the growth in New Apprenticeships was in
industries such as retail at the expense of traditional trades. The Committee
found that there was limited or negative training growth in the mechanical and
engineering sectors. The Committee also commented on the treatment of trainees
against traditional apprentices and noted that trainees have less protection
under the law in the workplace. Existing workers may also be vulnerable, given
they may be forced to take on a traineeship to keep employment so that the
employer can pay them a reduced training wage and receive incentives.
12.57 That the
Commonwealth provide funding for the expansion of access to the New
Apprenticeships scheme, particularly in rural and regional areas.
12.58 That the
Commonwealth work with industry and unions to maximise the take up of
apprenticeships in areas where there are recognised skills shortages and to
ensure that training is relevant to enterprises and apprentices themselves.
12.59 That the
Commonwealth undertake a review of New Apprenticeships to evaluate the
effectiveness of policies; recruitment and selection; progression through the
scheme; and employment outcomes after training.
12.60 Many welfare and
community organisations provide assistance to young people. One such program is
Mission Australia's Creative Youth Initiatives based in Surry Hills, Sydney. Mission
Australia indicated that the program had been a success in engaging truly
disadvantaged young people: 'we had a young woman recently and, on her first
day, the contract we made with her was that she would be alive the next day.
Nothing more. She was so suicidal that it was nothing more than just coming
into the service the next day alive. We have watched her progress through her
work in the art program to a stage where she is smiling and she is part of that
12.61 Youth Allowance
is available to full-time students under 25 and unemployed people aged 16-20
years. It is income tested on both individual and parental income. Newstart
Allowance is available to unemployed persons aged over 21 actively looking for
work. Both have activity tests.
12.62 FaCS stated that
'Youth Allowance, which was introduced in July 1998, was never intended to be
the sole measure of income support for young people, as no single source is
expected to shoulder the whole responsibility for supporting young people'.
Rather, income support schemes have been designed to
encourage young people themselves and their families to help young people stay
in education and training. Assistance is targeted towards young people in the
post-compulsory school years from low-income backgrounds.
12.63 The Department also commented that Youth Allowance
has flexible activity testing and incentives for young people to take up
full-time education and training, such as a higher fortnightly income free
area, access to the Student Income Bank and access to further assistance
through a loan under the Student Financial Supplement Loan Scheme. Rent
Assistance has also been extended to students who need to live away from home
in order to undertake study. This particularly benefited students from rural
and regional areas.
pointed to research which suggests that single unemployed people under the age
of 21 live 32 per cent below the poverty line and single adult unemployed
people over 21 live 21 per cent below the poverty line.
It was argued that while the level of benefits payable to these groups is
relatively low, the extent of disadvantage faced may be mitigated for some by
the extent to which they can draw on family support for assistance. However,
witnesses noted that many young people receive only limited assistance even
when living at home because of the family's low income or family dysfunction.
12.65 It was also
suggested that poverty among young people who are not living with their parents
has increased in recent years.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence stated that 'the payments for young people,
particularly those under 21, are so low that it is almost impossible for them
to live and they rely on agencies like ours, emergency relief and a whole bunch
of things just to get by'.
Melbourne Citymission stated that although the rate of payment has recently had
a minimal increase, in line with CPI 'the payment remains inadequate to cover
basic costs of housing and food, and falls well short of funding additional
costs associated with study and transport. Failure to fund costs that are
essential for engagement in education and training effectively excludes young
people from social participation now and in the future.'
12.66 Witnesses argued
that allowances, including Newstart and Youth Allowances, should be increased
up to the level of the pension.
ACOSS noted that raising allowance rates to pension levels 'would help some of
the most financially disadvantaged groups of recipients – unemployed people,
adult students, and independent young people – and reduce some of the worst
12.67 Other witnesses
called for a change to the definition of independence for young people for
Youth Allowance. There are number of criteria for being considered independent
including that you are 16 years and over and have been out of school for 18
months and have earned $15,990 in an 18 month period before lodging a claim; or
you are aged 15 to 24 and it is unreasonable for you to live at home. Witnesses
indicated that the latter criteria poses some difficulties for young people:
With the youth allowance independent rate, you have to prove
that you cannot live at home. In a socially dysfunctional family, it is very
difficult to get a child to say, ‘I just can’t live at home,’ when mum is
saying, ‘Yes, they can.’ So it is considered that they are living at home but
really they are out the door. So, irrespective of the benefit they are receiving,
what are they actually doing or how are they surviving? They are on the
12.68 If the person
applying for youth allowance is not considered to be independent, a parental
income test applies. The parental income test applies if parent's taxable
income for 2003-03 is $28,150 (as at 1 January 2004).
12.69 The AFHO
recommended that the Commonwealth recognise the independent adult status of
young people 18 years and over by assessing their entitlement to income support
without reference whatsoever to their parents' income.
Impact of activity testing and
breaching on youth
12.70 The impact of
activity testing and breaching of young people was also raised in evidence. The
reason for breaches range from failure to report brief periods of work to
I did not get up and have a shower and eat and go to an
appointment. Oh yeah – I don't have a bed or a shower or money for the tram.
Migrant Resource Centre stated that almost half of the Centrelink breaches were
being imposed on people under 25 and commented that 'the amount available on
Youth Allowance is seen as not worth disputing, and the complaints process is
too difficult to access, and so many young people in Fairfield just give up on
income support, and rely on family and friends to survive'.
12.72 Breaching leads
to compounding negative outcomes ranging from the loss of other concessions,
for example, in NSW travel concession eligibility is lost once a breach is
imposed, to increasing risk of further breaching and penalties:
Each time a young person loses income their ability to meet
basic living expenses and look for work decreases, which means that they are
vulnerable to further breaches and penalties.
12.73 Young people who
are breached may also seek advance payments from Centrelink leading to large
outstanding debts. Witnesses stated that this is a well-documented trap of the
Youth Allowance system.
This means that benefits are reduced over a long period to recoup a crisis
payment, thereby pushing many young people into despair and depression as they
face increasing debt, increasingly unstable housing situations and even
I have talked to young people who were at the edge of committing
suicide. I have talked to young people who have actually acquired disabilities
as a result of breaching because they were put out on the streets. If you have
eight weeks with no income, what are you going to do? Where are you going to
live? What do you do if you have no income and you still have to live? Some way
you get the stuff and some way you get through, and that is what is happening
every day, every week, every fortnight, day in, day out, for people who live on
Citymission commented that the social security system identifies young people
at risk of poverty 'but frequently pushes those most at risk into cycles of
debt and housing instability through inappropriate use of assessment processes
and mutual obligation principles' and expressed concern that it was proposed to
expand mutual obligation requirements under the Australians Working Together
Youth and Centrelink
12.75 Witnesses also
drew attention to other problems that young people have when dealing with
Centrelink. For example, Melbourne Citymission stated that it experienced
problems with Centrelink's use of the Job Seeker Classification Instrument
(JSCI) for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Problems arise
because of under reporting of personal difficulties by young people who feel
they need to 'do well' in the interview. Further problems with the JSCI reflect
the insufficient weight that this tool gives to homelessness and associated
barriers to employment. Melbourne Citymission suggested that allowing input
from specialist agencies and community organisations would improve assessments
leading to more appropriate targeting of young people.
12.76 Anglicare NT
indicated that it had experienced difficulties with Centrelink activity
agreements that young people entered into:
The usefulness and viability of activity agreements to seek work
is in question. Young people tend to agree, particularly in the face of
officialdom, to poorly understood plans that have limited meaning in their
gaining useful employment. More collaboration is needed in that process so that
more realistic plans can be developed that are meaningful to the young person
for their participation.
12.77 Some progress
has been made with specifically targeting young people. Anglicare NT reported
that it was undertaking a small pilot program in collaboration with its youth
program and Centrelink to address problems with activity agreements.
Melbourne Citymission noted efforts by Centrelink to trial new forms of service
provision through the Centrelink Community Support Unit (CSU). The Melbourne
Inner City Centrelink CSU works across a number of inner city suburbs with
young people who are disadvantaged, homeless or at risk of homelessness. Centrelink
workers recognise a number of areas of concern specific to this group and have
adopted a flexible approach to providing a specialist, co-ordinated service that
is responsive to the needs of young people accessing a range of co-located
youth services at Melbourne Citymission's Frontyard site.
Citymission concluded 'the current approach to income support for young people
has proven itself to be spectacularly unsuccessful and needs serious
reconsideration in light of what we know about the inadequacy of labour market
pathways for young people'.
Issues with Centrelink are also discussed in Chapter 17.
UK Gateway to the New Deal program
12.79 In the United
Kingdom, the New Deal program was developed to help the long-term unemployed
back to work. The New Deal for 18 to 24 year olds was introduced in 1998. The
New Deal gives four options for young people aged 18 to 24 who have been
unemployed for six months or more and who are claiming Jobseekers allowance.
All participants begin with an intensive period of counselling, advice and
guidance – the 'Gateway' to the New Deal. This includes intensive help from the
Employment Service, including help with finding employment. Each young person
will have both an individual Employment Service adviser and opportunities to
take advantage of independent careers advice.
12.80 During the
Gateway, the Employment Service aims to help young people find jobs and move
off welfare into work. Those young people who remain unemployed have the option
to pursue a place in one of four New Deal options including a job with an
employer or a placement with the Government's Environment Taskforce.
12.81 The Committee
considers that intensive measures for unemployed young people are required to
move then successfully into full-time employment. There is a need for a single,
coordinated service to assist the young unemployed.
12.82 That the
Commonwealth initiate an employment assistance program, based on the United
Kingdom Gateway program, to provide youth with intensive assistance and an
agency providing comprehensive support for youth pathways.
12.83 As has been
shown, education plays a fundamental role in determining whether a young person
is at risk of unemployment and poverty. Those who fail to finish year 12 are at
the highest risk of poverty, they have lower participation rates, and higher
unemployment rates. The OECD Economic Survey of Australia in 2003 made the following
International comparisons of school-to-work transition outcomes
for young people also suggest that, while the employment rates for young adults
are above the OECD average, and a relatively high proportion of young adults
obtain tertiary qualifications, teenage unemployment and early school leaving
rates in Australia exceed the area-wide average. Moreover, the employment
disadvantage of poorly qualified school leavers, compared to their educated
counterparts, is somewhat above the OECD average. Increasing skill demands in Australia
and other OECD countries have made qualifications at the upper secondary level
of education (or an apprenticeship qualification) a necessary condition for the
employability of young people.
12.84 There has been
progress in improving the qualifications and employment prospects of school
leavers. However, there is considerable scope for further improvement. To do so
is of fundamental importance not only to individuals within society but to
society as a whole. There is also a large economic gain to be reaped with the
estimates that the economy stands to gain a long-term increase in GDP of 0.28
per cent or an additional $1.8 billion through a 10 per cent lift in the
completion rate of Australian youth.
Recommendations in Chapter 7 address early school leavers.
12.85 The Committee
considers that further emphasis needs to be placed on literacy and numeracy
skill and improving school completion rates. This will provide a protection
against poverty and unemployment. In addition, there is a need to ensure that
full-time entry-level work opportunities and appropriate combinations of
training and work are available for Australian youth.
12.86 That the
Commonwealth and State Governments implement strategies to improve access to
employment opportunities for young unemployed people, in particular those young
people living in rural and remote areas.
12.87 Many community
organisations provide assistance to young people at risk of leaving school
early, young people who do not have the skills to enter the job market and
young people who are at risk of homeless or are homeless. Evidence received
during the inquiry point to the considerable success that these programs have
in assisting young people to gain employment and escape poverty.
12.88 That the
Commonwealth provide additional funding to community organisations to enable
them to provide education, training and housing assistance packages to young
12.89 The Committee
heard evidence that current forms of income support are inappropriate for many
young people and lead to further hardship and disadvantage. The Committee
considers that income support at the present time does not adequately take into
the account the special needs of young people and the particular difficulties
they face in the labour market.
12.90 That the
Commonwealth progressively lower the age of independence test for Youth
Allowance from 25 to 21 years.
12.91 That the
Commonwealth review its income support programs for young people to fully
recognise changes in the Australian labour market.
12.92 The Committee
heard evidence that Centrelink is seeking to improve its services to young
people. The Committee considers that it is imperative the young people are able
to access Centrelink services that are appropriate to their needs and that
Centrelink should continue to explore new ways to engage young people,
particularly those who are homeless.
12.93 That Centrelink
expand forms of service delivery which are responsive to the needs of young
people, particularly young homeless people.
Students and poverty
12.94 While it is
acknowledged that education is an important pathway out of poverty, many young
people cannot access education or cannot complete their education because of
the lack of financial resources. Those continuing with tertiary education often
do so in the face of poverty which is exacerbated by low levels of income support,
high costs of living including accommodation and high costs of equipment and
12.95 Students have a
significantly lower income when compared to the general Australian population.
In 2000, the mean annual income for students was $12,513. This amount is the
total sum of all sources of income, including paid employment, student income
support payments, other Centrelink support payments (for example Family
Allowance) and other forms of regular and irregular payments (for example
allowance from parents). This was approximately a third of the average
Australian income of $33,800 in 2000.
12.96 The MUSU
commented that total annual income for students is even lower when considered
in terms of a median rather than a mean income. Most students earned
approximately $8,190 per annum in 2000. A study by the Australian Vice
Chancellors Committee found that on average student budgets are deficient by
around 21 per cent, with an average of 42 per cent for full-time students.
Income support for students
12.97 It was argued
that the large levels of poverty amongst the student body are due in part to
the inadequate levels of income support payments. University students studying
full-time are eligible for one of three income support payments: Youth
Allowance (for those in full-time study under the age of 25 years), Austudy
(full-time students over 25 years) or ABSTUDY. These payments were designed to
facilitate access to the education system for students who are unable to
provide their own financial support. However, it was argued that payments are currently
at such low levels and have such stringent restrictions on eligibility that
they effectively keep people in poverty while they are studying.
Education is also expensive. Austudy is based on assets – if
parents are asset rich/income poor there are limited higher education
opportunities. Kids need to go to Burnie for higher education – the cost for
accommodation and travel is a real strain.
Just Tasmania research participant,
You should get more money if you're on Austudy because you've
got higher expenses. It's especially hard on people who are on low incomes
before they start study – they're particularly disadvantaged because they
haven't got any savings to back themselves up.
Just Tasmania research participant, Huon Valley,
12.98 ACOSS research
indicated that in July 2002 those receiving Youth Allowance and Austudy
payments are well below the poverty line, with a single adult student receiving
Austudy being 39 per cent below the poverty line and those on Youth
Allowance 20 per cent below.
12.99 Student bodies
noted that the payment for Austudy was $82 per week less than the payment
received by unemployed people due to a lower benefit payment and that Austudy
recipients cannot receive Rent Assistance. Rent Assistance is available to
those receiving Youth Allowance but only if they are considered 'independent'.
A further anomaly exists between Youth Allowance and Newstart
Allowance for those over the age of 21, as the Newstart Allowance is paid at a
higher rate. It was argued that this gap is a potential disincentive to study.
ACOSS argued that as a first step Austudy rates should be aligned with those of
Newstart Allowance and the single adult rate of Newstart Allowance and the away
from home rates of Youth Allowance should be increased.
ABSTUDY is available to Indigenous students. The National Union of
Students (NUS) stated that 'policy changes introduced by the Coalition
Government have worked against the provision of adequate income support for
students and have impacted severely on Indigenous students'. The changes have
resulted in fewer students receiving ABSTUDY and many receiving reduced
payments. NUS commented that as a consequence, Indigenous enrolments fell from
8367 in 1999 to 7342 in 2002, a fall of 18 per cent and a reversal of a decade
of steadily increasing enrolments.
It was also argued that two of the eligibility criteria contribute to
student poverty: the age of independence; and the parental means test. Many
witnesses commented that in most areas of life a person is thought to be an
adult at 18 years. However, for income support, young people are considered to
by dependent on their parents until the age of 25 unless they can prove that
they are independent.
There are strict definitions of independence under the Youth Allowance
regulations. Students who do not meet the criteria for independence, are deemed
to be dependent on their immediate family, irrespective of whether they receive
financial support or not. It was argued that many students cease receiving
financial assistance from parents well before they turn 25, even if they live
in the family home.
...even if students are staying at home, it is not necessarily the
case that their parents will support them. Some of the students who are working
the most–who are struggling the most—are actually students from middle-class
backgrounds who are living at home but whose parents are not supporting
them...Therefore, the age of 25, being deemed the age of independence, is
unrealistic insofar as students are supporting themselves from a much earlier
age. To assume that, at the age of 25, they have been supported by their
parents for the previous six or seven years is somewhat farcical. It is simply
not the case.
If a student is deemed to be dependent, the parental or family income
is means tested in assessing the student's entitlement to assistance. The
parental means test was seen to be poorly targeted. Payments are reduced after
the parental income threshold of $28,150 per annum. This was considered to be
too low and excluded many students from income support yet the parents or
partners of these students did not earn enough to support them.
The USASA also noted that the parental income test has not kept pace
with changes in average weekly earning. When the Tertiary Education Assistance
Scheme (TEAS) was introduced in the mid 1970s, around 70 per cent of full-time
students were in receipt of some government assistance. By 1982, this had
declined to 40 per cent. The level of parent income allowed before allowances
were reduced had declined from 100 per cent of AWE in 1974 to 63 per cent in
One student commented on the impact of the stringent parental income test:
I am not eligible for Austudy because the government says my dad
earns too much. I live with him and his second family and three half sisters
who are much younger than me. I can't afford to live on my own and feel a real
burden on my father. I don't like asking him for money because he always seems
to be worried about making ends meet.
The NUS concluded 'students financial dependence on their parents,
forced on them through the ridiculous age of independence and harsh parental
means testing arrangements of the income support system, places the burden of
paying for education on those families which are least able to afford it'.
Many students seek to be classified as independent by earning the
required amount of income for the independence test. This can place a huge
burden on students:
On a personal level, for me to access youth allowance, because
my father was just over the $27,400...I had to work every Thursday and Friday
night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, plus I had another job which would
interfere during the week. I failed subjects that year. I earned the money. I
was able to access the independent rate for youth allowance, but I failed.
That the parental income test for Youth Allowance be increased and
maintained as a percentage of Average Weekly Earnings.
The majority of students undertake part-time work to supplement their
income. A study by the Department of Education, Science and Training indicated
that on average, full-time students are working 15 hours a week. 40 per cent
work more than 16 hours per week, while 18 per cent work in excess of 21 hours
per week. Two-thirds of the students surveyed said they had to work just to
meet their basic needs. The number of first year students reporting that
employment was their main source of income increased over the decade: 26 per
cent in 1994 and 37 per cent 1999.
While there may be some benefits in undertaking work while studying,
such as gaining practical experience in the field and the opportunity to
establish networks, excessive hours of work leave students with little time to
study or participate in social activities. For example, it was estimated that
one in ten students who work part-time frequently miss classes because of their
job, and that work adversely affects the study a great deal for two in every
ten students in paid employment.
For students enrolled in courses with high contact hours, it is especially
difficult to combine employment and study. Medical and veterinary science
students have up to 40 and 50 hours per week in contact hours alone.
The only problem I find is a diminishing study ethic due to work
related tiredness. You feel like you have no other choice but to work so you
can pay for the things you need. It really does have an impact on your
Students are also limited in the amount that they may earn before
penalties are imposed. For every dollar earned between $118 and $156, student
payments are decreased by 50 cents and then by 70 cents in every dollar earned
over $158 per week. The MUSU stated that 'this system of institutionalized
penalty is set at an even higher rate than the current taxation rate for the
wealthiest elite in Australian society!'.
UTS Student Association argued that this forces a number of students into black
market areas of work where they receive reduced wages for non-declared income
so as not to affect their benefit.
Finding a suitable job may also cause problems for students. Students
tend to occupy casual, low-paid positions. Over 60 per cent of students earn
less than $15 per hour, 10 per cent earn $5 or less per hour and only 8 per
cent earn more than $26 per hour.
While casual employment allows students flexibility to fulfil their
coursework and study requirements, casual labour is often unstable and
unreliable. There is no permanent and ongoing employment contract and casuals
are not entitled to employment benefits such as sick leave and holiday leave.
Students undertaking casual work often find it difficult to plan study
activities and are uncertain about their level of finances from week to week.
There is also pressure to work more hours to compensate for the lack of
employment benefits and lack of employment security.
The NUS commented:
The fact that students have to work such long hours to survive
while trying to further their education has implications for the whole sector,
and the value that students can gain from their education. The Australian Vice
Chancellor's Committee expressed this view in their submission to the Senate
Committee into Higher Education:
there is growing concern that students' work obligations in part
time, and sometimes full time, employment prevents them from gaining optimum
value from their studies. The effort of holding down a number of jobs hinders
students from attending all their classes or having sufficient time for out of
The Students Union of the University of South Australia concluded:
There can be no doubt that the quality of students' educational
experience is diminished by long hours of employment, student stress and
tiredness. It also raises questions about the long term social impact on
graduates who have not been able to adequately engage with their studies due to
the pressures of low finances and long hours of employment.
Cost of living
The rising cost of living has also had a significant impact on student
incomes. While there have been increases in costs of food, utilities and
travel, it is accommodation and the cost of books and equipment which has had
the most severe impact.
Rents in inner city areas have increased substantially. This has
created great difficulties in accessing accommodation near to educational
institutions for many students. While moving to an outer suburb may appear to
be an option, the increased costs of travel and the impacts on time for work and
study make it untenable. In Sydney for example, students typically spend
two-thirds of their income on rent.
In Melbourne, a two-bedroom apartment that could be rented for $154 a week in
1981, cost $250 in 1999. At the University of Canberra, some 200 students were
unable to find on-campus accommodation or rental accommodation in the community
The already severe accommodation problems faced by students are even
more difficult for Austudy recipients as they do not receive Rent Assistance.
Maximum Rent Assistance of $42 per week in only available to independent students
on Youth Allowance or unemployed young people on Newstart. Shelter NSW provided
the following case study as an example:
Rent Assistance and the
impact on students receiving Austudy – Wendy's story
Study 2: Austudy is not enough
Wendy is 30. She has worked in retail and hospitality for many years. Her
parents are elderly pensioners.
In 2002, Wendy enrolled
in a full time graphic design course at Enmore TAFE. She applied for Austudy and scaled down her hours to
6 hours retail work on a Saturday, which paid $100 a week. This meant her
weekly income was about $248 a week.
Wendy was renting a room in a share house within walking distance of the
TAFE. Her rent was $130 a week.
After paying her rent, utilities,
plus buying materials for the course, Wendy estimates that some weeks she may only have $20 left
Wendy was doing two hours of homework a night, and working Saturdays. After
6 weeks she found it too stressful to juggle the demands of the course, and pay
for rent, food, and also keep working on the weekends. She dropped out.
Wendy went off Austudy and returned to working in retail at a different art
supplies shop and is now employed as a casual.
Wendy had this to say: "Austudy should definitely have
Rent Assistance - if the dole has it, then Austudy should have it too. As a
person trying to better myself - because I don't want to work as a casual in
retail for the rest of my life where I live from week to week and the only way
of doing that is educating myself and getting the qualifications – I find it
hard to because Austudy is less than the dole. You also have more expenses when
you are studying. The dole is more than Austudy!"
102, p.16 (Shelter NSW).
That Rent Assistance be extended to those receiving Austudy payments.
Students under 25 years of age who are not counted as independent and
are unable to get Youth Allowance because of their parents income, may have no other
choice than to stay at home. If their home is a great distance from their
tertiary institution there is the added burden of travel time and costs.
Students in this situation also reported concerns about family and household
The cost of books and equipment also account for a significant
proportion of student budgets. Course readers are priced up to $30 each and
textbooks average around $80 each. The Vice Chancellors study found that
students pay around 10 per cent of their annual income on course related costs,
or an average of $1231 a year, with textbooks making up about a quarter of
NUS commented that 'this is a particularly large burden and something that is
not taken into account with government payments to students'.
Of particular concern was the long term impact of debt on students. A
survey by the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee found that one in every ten
students obtains a loan to be able to continue studying with the average amount
borrowed being $4000. This is a substantial amount in the context of student
Students relying on income support are about three times as likely to take out
a loan to continue their studies. The NUS noted that students from equity
groups are also more likely to take out a loan, including students with a
disability, people who move to study, those form low socioeconomic backgrounds
and women with children or Indigenous women. The Union concluded that 'thus the
most marginalized students are more likely to start their working lives with
sizeable debts from their study'.
The NUS was particularly concerned about the use of the Supplement
Loan. Students can access extra financial support from the government by
trading up to half of their income support as a loan. In effect, students can
borrow up to $140 a week to gain an extra $70 in income support payments. The
Union stated that 'supplement loans prey on the fact that government income
support is so far below the poverty line, ensuring that students who are reliant
on income support graduate with an even greater level of indebtedness'. The NUS
recommended that Supplement Loans be abolished and student income support
Indebtedness is also increased through HECS fees. Students can
accumulate a HECS debt of between $3680 and $6136 for every year that they study
and most graduate with a debt of between $11,000 and $30,000.
Anyone who gets a clear run through life and comes out can earn
at least 40 grand and at that rate your average degree will take
12 years to pay off anyway. Women who have children, someone who can only
study part time, someone who has a disability or someone who has had a car
accident and does not get going for a few years will never get a chance to pay
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations has argued that
HECS can have long-term negative economic impacts both on individuals and on
society. The Association reported that the level of graduate debt, and
experience of the higher levels of debt in New Zealand, has influenced the
- students and recent graduates will be more likely to live with
their parents longer, and will find it more difficult to save deposits and make
mortgage payments, affecting levels of home ownership;
- evidence from New Zealand shows that indebted students find it
more difficult to obtain bank loans for housing and other needs;
- professionals such as doctors, lawyers, dentists and vets are
compelled to increase their fees to pay for HECS repayments; and
- graduates delay having children, contributing to the fact that in
2001 Australia's fertility reached a record low.
The NUS noted that women find it particularly hard to pay back their
HECS debt throughout their working lives. NUS commented that with HECS
increasing, 'it is quite likely that almost two in every five women will never
repay their HECS debt after graduation, and this is particularly concerning'.
It was argued that in order to minimise poverty and inequality it is
imperative that student debt not be worsened by further increases and
deregulation of the HECS fee.
These two combined effects are going to lock students into a
life of poverty while they are at university and seriously affect the life
choices of students once they graduate. Things like buying a home, starting a
family and building their savings are already being affected, with students
having to carry HECS debts of $20,000, $30,000 and even higher. If HECS fees
are going to increase again, the life choices of more and more students are
going to be affected. Our economy, our society and our culture are all going to
be dramatically affected by having so much of our young Australians' money
locked away in a debt to society.
young woman I spoke to just two days ago needs to do extra work to increase her
career opportunities. She is paying $140 a fortnight to just do those extra
modules, yet we understand that the federal government, at the higher education
end, will give discretion to universities to charge another 25 per cent on the
basis of HECS when we already have something that is unaffordable and
working-class people are dropping out. We are then relying on those who can
afford to pay and giving them a lower entry level point if they have the
dollars to get in to university.
Committee Hansard 30.4.03, p.101 (ACTU).
The Womens Action Alliance stated 'there needs to be an allowance in
the payment threshold for HECS to take into account the number of dependants
upon that income. We do it with other forms of income support, to a large
extent. It is totally unreasonable that these families should be forced into
repaying HECS at this level'.
Impact of poverty on students
Witnesses to the inquiry refuted the notion that student poverty is
somehow a 'rite of passage'. It was argued that many students are in dire
financial circumstances, while for others the idea of struggling through years
of higher education below the poverty line is a deterrent to further education.
Student poverty is a serious social issue that needs to be recognised and addressed.
Economic hardship has a major impact on the day-to-day lives of
students and is seen in:
- poor academic performance as financial concerns and the need for
work distract students from their studies;
- regular absence from lectures and tutorials due to the pressure
of work or the unaffordability of childcare;
withdrawal from study;
inability to purchase essentials such as textbooks and equipment;
- inability to afford adequate or suitable accommodation;
- students not eating adequately or going with food,
- being unable to afford heating;
- selling essential items to pay bills;
- experiencing severe stress and poor psychological health; and
inability to afford medical and dental care.
The Committee also heard evidence that in extreme cases, students in
dire poverty have resorted to scrounging for food from waste bins, sleeping in
cars because of lack of accommodation and being involved in illegal activities.
Withdrawal from study is the most significant longer term impact as not
completing study will limit future employment options, and possibly extend
poverty as a student into adult life.
The Salvation Army considered that 'the reticence of government in
providing adequate funding for students is perplexing given that tertiary
education is actively encouraged and promoted by government'.:
other key issue is the low amount of student subsidies–and students become dead
averse to the prospect of living in absolute poverty while at
university–combined with the fact of coming out of university with a substantially
large student debt. Many students, especially those from rural and regional
areas, those from Indigenous areas and those simply from a working-class
background are turning away from university, and that is a particularly
frightening fact. In this report, NUS focuses very clearly on a number of
student groups that are most heavily affected, including women, queer students
and students from Indigenous backgrounds. These three groups are groups that
suffer substantially. Women are a very good example because we all know, I am
sure, that women find it particularly hard to pay back their HECS debt
throughout their working lives. With HECS increasing, it is quite likely that
almost two in every five women will never repay their HECS debt after
graduation, and this is particularly concerning.
Committee Hansard 1.5.03, pp.114-15 (NUS).
It has been argued that students experience low incomes for only a
small part of their lives. However, the Committee is concerned that there is
evidence that poverty and debt is impacting on student's ability to continue
with their studies and is acting as a deterrent to some disadvantaged groups to
enter tertiary institutions.
The Committee considers that, as tertiary education is one of the most
important protections from poverty for the individual and will establish a
workforce that is able to meet the challenges of the future, it is undesirable
for any young person to be excluded from a tertiary education because of the
impact of student poverty.
The Committee considers that there should be greater targeting of
assistance programs to ensure that disadvantaged groups have equity in access
to tertiary education. Further, the Committee considers that HECS should not
act as a financial barrier to those from disadvantaged backgrounds seeking a
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