Education and Training: Regional Australia—Driving Our Economy 2017–18

The Education and Training portfolio’s mission is to create opportunities for all Australians to access high quality education from the early years, through schooling and tertiary settings. We want to be acknowledged for the global reach of our research and internationally recognised for the quality of our education system. The Department of Education and Training delivers national policies and programs that help Australians access world-class child care, early learning, school education, higher education, vocational education and training, and international education and research.

Through its range of programs, the Education and Training portfolio supports Australians living in and rural and regional communities. For example, the regional study hubs initiative will improve access to higher education for students from rural and remote Australia by supporting the establishment and operation of these hubs. Such hubs will support regional students to study courses locally delivered by distance from any Australian university by providing greater access to study support and infrastructure. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in preschool will benefit from the forthcoming trial of English learning applications (apps) designed specifically for children in regional and remote areas for whom English is a second language.

New Initiatives

Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education

As part of its 2016 election commitment, the Australian Government has commissioned an independent review into regional, rural and remote education. The review will consider the factors that impact on student learning outcomes and identify innovative and evidence-based approaches to help students succeed at school and in their transition to further study, training and employment. Consultations will be undertaken through public submissions and face-to-face consultations with the education community, families, employer groups, government agencies and the philanthropic sector. The final report and recommendations will be delivered to the Australian Government by December 2017.

Schools Funding

The Australian Government’s new funding arrangements for schools are fairer, simpler, more affordable and more transparent than previous arrangements. Ensuring a contribution to all students’ school education, the Australian Government will provide a record $78.8 billion for schooling over 2017–18 to 2020–21. This includes an estimated $19.0 billion to regional areas over 2018 to 2021, a 37 per cent increase from the previous period, 2014 to 2017.

The new funding arrangements will retain the Schooling Resource Standard, which comprises a base funding amount for all students and loadings to address disadvantage. This includes the location loading, which recognises the additional costs for delivering education outside of metropolitan areas. Regional areas account for nearly 20 per cent of school students, while attracting 23.2 per cent of the funding.

Higher Education Reform Package

The Australian Government’s higher education reforms will provide more equitable access for under-represented groups, ensure students graduate with skills that meet the needs of employers and the community, and hold higher education institutions accountable for the taxpayer funding they receive. These reforms rebalance the share of funding between students and taxpayers. They require students to share marginally more of the cost, universities to share some of the efficiencies of scale realised from growth in taxpayer funded places, and will ensure that debt from growth in student loans will be better managed.

We expect these reforms will save taxpayers $2.8 billion dollars over the forward estimates in underlying cash balance terms. Regional students will particularly benefit from the Government’s reforms through the enhancements to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, the increased Australian Government support for sub-bachelor level places, and the provision of funding for the establishment and operation of regional study hubs.

Regional Study Hubs

The Australian Government will provide $15.2 million from 2017–18 to 2020–21 to improve access to higher education for students from rural and remote Australia by supporting the establishment and operation of regional study hubs. Such hubs typically support regional students to study courses locally delivered by distance from any Australian university by providing greater access to study support and infrastructure.

The measure will assist in the establishment and ongoing operation of up to six regional study hubs across mainland Australia. In addition, funding will contribute to the ongoing operation of the two current regional study hubs in Geraldton and Cooma.

Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships

The Australian Government is fulfilling its election commitment to provide $24.0 million over four years from 2017–18 to 2020–21 for Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships, which will support 1200 regional and remote students to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies. The scholarships are for undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational education students, and aim to improve access to educational opportunities for regional and remote students.

Universal Access to Preschool Funding

The Australian Government has committed $427.9 million to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education 2016–2017 for a further year. Early childhood education has been increasingly recognised as vital for giving young children the greatest opportunity to succeed in schooling and life. This measure will benefit over 346,000 children in the year before full-time school and provide more certainty for the preschool sector.

English Language Learning for Indigenous Children (ELLIC) Program

The Australian Government has committed $5.9 million from 2017–18 to 2020–21 to trial English learning apps to improve literacy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children for whom English is a second language. The trial will take place over 2019 and 2020 in at least 20 preschools and is based on the successful Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) program.

The trial will further support the Australian Government’s commitment to Closing the Gap in literacy achievement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and non-Indigenous children. Children will access the apps on tablet devices in preschool, supported by educators trained on how to integrate ELLIC into the preschool’s learning program. The selection of preschools for this program will focus on regional and remote areas, which will be identified through consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Current Initiatives

Jobs for Families Child Care Package

The Australian Government will invest extra funding for child care support over the next four years as part of the Jobs for Families Child Care Package to make the child care system more flexible, more accessible and more affordable. A key feature of these reforms is replacing existing child care payments with a single,
means-tested Child Care Subsidy from 2 July 2018.

Support for rural and remote families is an important feature of the Job for Families Child Care Package. The $1.2 billion Child Care Safety Net, aims to give the most vulnerable children a strong start. This includes specific funding in the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) to assist vulnerable or disadvantaged families and communities. $61.8 million of the CCCF will provide a third funding stream for Budget Based Funded child care services currently operating in mostly rural and remote communities as they transition to the new child care system.

As part of the CCCF, the Connected Beginnings Program commenced in July 2016. The program provides for the integration of child care, maternal and child health and family support services with schools in a number of Indigenous communities experiencing disadvantage. Communities announced include Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Galiwin’ku in the Northern Territory, Doomadgee in Queensland and Ceduna in South Australia, with further sites to be announced.

Learning for Life Program

The Australian Government will provide $48.0 million over four years, from 2016–17 to 2019–20, to expand The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program which will support an additional 24,000 disadvantaged students.

The Learning for Life program provides emotional, practical and financial support to disadvantaged students to encourage them to stay at school, complete Year 12 (or its equivalent) and successfully transition from school to work or to further education and training.

The program is delivered in over 90 communities across every State and Territory in Australia, approximately half in regional areas.

Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA)

Following a successful trial involving 41 preschool services in 2015 and an extension to around 300 services in 2016, the Australian Government has invested $5.9 million over two years from 2016–17 to make the ELLA program available to preschool services nationally.

The ELLA program is an innovative play-based language learning app available on tablet devices that provides preschool children with the opportunity to learn a language other than English, including Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Indonesian, French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic. Modern Greek and Hindi will be added in 2018.

The apps are designed so that preschool educators do not need knowledge of the language being taught. This is particularly beneficial for use in regional and remote areas where access to qualified language teachers can be problematic.

Flexible Literacy for Remote Primary Schools Program

The Australian Government is providing $23.8 million over 2013–14 to 2017–18 for the Flexible Literacy for Remote Primary Schools program, which supports up to 40 remote and very remote primary schools to implement two explicit teaching approaches: Direct Instruction and Explicit Direct Instruction. The program is delivered by Good to Great Schools Australia and has been funded since 2013–14. The program seeks to:

  • increase teacher pedagogical skills in teaching literacy through the use of alphabetic teaching approaches, in particular Direct Instruction and Explicit Direct Instruction; and
  • improve literacy results for students in participating schools.

The Australian Government has extended the pilot to the end of 2017. This will enable service delivery over three full school years. An independent evaluation of the program is being undertaken in 2017.

Supporting More Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI)—National Research Internship Program

The Australian Government has committed $28.2 million from 2016–17 to 2019–20 to support more women in STEM careers. The AMSI National Research Internship Program will support 1,400 new industry-based internships, with a particular focus on women researchers, through a nationally expanded PhD internships program run by AMSI. The national program will be open to all universities, including those in rural and regional areas, and will ensure participation by regional students. The internships will provide an opportunity for PhD students to train and build their research skills in an industry environment, and to develop their entrepreneurial skills and work-readiness.

Inspiring All Australians in Digital Literacy and STEM

As part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, $62.8 million has been allocated from 2016–17 to 2019–20 for ten initiatives to help children and young people embrace the digital age and increase their engagement with STEM education. Students who are most at risk of falling behind in the digital age, including those in regional communities, will be given opportunities to participate and engage. Support is also available for educators to increase their capacity to teach STEM subjects in preschool programs and in schools.

Teach for Australia

The Teach for Australia program fast-tracks high calibre, non-teaching graduates (known as Associates) into disadvantaged secondary schools through two years of intensive teacher training that leads to a Master of Teaching.

The Australian Government has supported Teach for Australia since 2009 and has committed more than $77.6 million in funding to deliver ten cohorts of the program. Teach for Australia partners with schools serving low socio-economic communities. Over 40 per cent of Associates are working in regional communities, filling hard to staff teaching positions. To date over 230 Associates have been placed in regional and remote and very remote communities, including Portland (Victoria), Tennant Creek (Northern Territory), Kalgoorlie (Western Australia) and Huonville (Tasmania).

Reading Writing Hotline

The Australian Government provided funding of more than $0.6 million in 2017–18 to TAFE New South Wales (Sydney Institute) to support the continued delivery of the Reading Writing Hotline. This important referral service supports adults to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills. It is delivered nationally, with targeted marketing to regional communities across Australia, where there is often a high need for services.

Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)

The Australian Government has committed $300.1 million in 2017–18 for AMEP.

AMEP provides up to 510 hours of English language tuition to eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants, within the first five years of their arrival in Australia. This helps them to successfully settle, and participate socially and economically in Australian society. Additional tuition is also available under the Special Preparatory Program, the Settlement Language Pathways to Employment and Training Program, and Adult Migrant English Program Extend.

AMEP is delivered nationally in metropolitan, rural and regional areas, including through classroom-based and distance e-learning.

Vocational Education and Training Student Loans (VSL)

The Australian Government is supporting more than 7,300 students, including 1,500 rural and regional students over the next four years to study higher level vocational qualifications aligned to workplace and economic need through the new VSL program. About 59 training organisations, including those operating in rural and regional communities, are able to offer courses funded through VSL.

VSL commenced on 1 January 2017 and replaced the VET FEE-HELP scheme, which closed to new students on 31 December 2016.

Skills for Education and Employment Program

Since 2002 the Skills for Education and Employment Program has provided training to assist job seekers to build skills necessary to gain employment or participate in further training. In 2017–18 the Australian Government is providing funding of $103.6 million for this national program to provide over 17,100 eligible job seekers with language, literacy and numeracy training. Clients will receive free accredited training through registered training organisations. Training is delivered to meet both client and industry needs. Services are available nationally through face-to-face and distance delivery.

Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program

Eligible employers in rural and regional Australia who want to take on apprentices will continue to benefit from the Australian Government’s 2017–18 investment of $392.1 million in the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program. The program provides additional assistance for employing apprentices in regional areas experiencing skills shortages or drought. Apprentices may also be eligible for the Living Away From Home Allowance.

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools Pilot (P-TECH)

The Australian Government has committed $5.1 million from 2016 to 2021 to pilot the P–TECH model as part of its strategy to improve Australia’s STEM capability.

Current P-TECH sites classified as regional include Ballarat, Townsville and Burnie/Parklands in Tasmania.

The pilot involves establishing partnerships between the education and industry sectors to support young people to make a successful transition from school to further education, training and work.

Jobs and Growth in Tasmania—University of Tasmania (UTAS) campuses in Launceston and Burnie

The Australian Government has committed funding of $150.0 million to the UTAS to improve its critical infrastructure through the relocation and expansion of its Launceston and Burnie campuses. This initiative aims to be an economic stimulus giving students the educational opportunities they need.

Deakin University–Support for the Warrnambool Campus

The Australian Government is providing funding of $14.0 million over two years from 2016–17 to Deakin University to ensure the ongoing sustainability of its Warrnambool campus.

The funding will help Deakin University to renew its Warrnambool campus to ensure a continuing, regionally focused campus for south-west Victoria that will ensure that the community has continued access to higher education.

Commonwealth Grant Scheme

The Australian Government will provide about $6.9 billion in 2016–17 through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme to subsidise students’ higher education costs. This is an increase in funding of 65 per cent since 2009. The subsidy is available for all domestic students enrolled in a bachelor degree or an eligible sub-bachelor program at a public university. Some students enrolled in other course types or with private higher education providers may also be eligible for this subsidy. Under the Commonwealth Grants Scheme, eligible universities with regional campuses will receive funding of $70.9 million in 2017–18 in regional loading to help meet the costs associated with higher education delivery in regional areas.

Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)

The Australian Government HELP provides loans to students, including many from regional and rural areas, to help them with the cost of their tuition. Eligible students do not pay any of their tuition fees up-front and are not required to start repaying the loan until they earn over the minimum compulsory repayment threshold.

Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP)

HEPPP provides funding to universities to improve access to undergraduate courses for people from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds, and improve their retention and completion rates. This includes providing assistance to students from regional and remote Australia who are also from low SES backgrounds. The Australian Government will provide $592.2 million in funding to public universities under the HEPPP over four years from 2017–18 to 2020-21.

Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education

Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education provides specialised tertiary education opportunities for students, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote parts of northern Australia.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

The Australian Government has committed additional, ongoing funding of $10.0 million per annum from 1 July 2016 (indexed for inflation) for the AIATSIS to preserve Australia’s Indigenous culture and heritage much of which is held by, or on behalf of, Australia’s regional communities. The national Indigenous collection is vital to research across a range of important areas for regional Australia, including native title, traditional ownership, land and water management, tourism, mining, agriculture, environment and higher education. The funding enables AIATSIS to continue working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the collection and preservation of critical cultural knowledge, and promote an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, languages and stories.

Research Block Grants

In 2017–18, the Australian Government is providing $1.9 billion to universities to support research and research training through a number of performance-based schemes. Research block grants are provided to all Australian public universities and help to support regionally–based researchers and research students. Universities are key to the economic and social growth of many regions, through the employment they provide and the students they attract, as well as their role in innovation systems.

As part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, new research block grant funding arrangements for universities were implemented in 2017 that will give greater emphasis to success in industry and other end-user engagement and will drive greater research industry collaboration. An additional $180.4 million is being provided over four years to increase incentives for research collaboration.

National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

Under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Australian Government has committed ongoing funding of $152.9 million per year from 1 July 2017 (indexed for inflation) to the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy to support the operations of major national research infrastructure.

Prior to the commencement of this funding, the Australian Government provided an additional $300.0 million from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017 to operate and maintain existing research infrastructure. The strategy provides important infrastructure to the Australian research community and benefits rural and regional Australia through localised research infrastructure projects and facilities.

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