MORE financial assistance to help rural and regional students pursue tertiary education will always be on the Country Women’s Association’s (CWA) wish list, but changes to youth allowance are unlikely to eventuate while the federal government focuses on making all initiatives cost neutral, according to the CWA’s state secretary.
Jocelyn Cameron said the CWA had pushed for youth allowance conditions to be improved when branches brought motions to the organisation’s past annual conferences.
Although it was not currently on the CWA’s agenda, Mrs Cameron said the group always aimed for improvements to education and welfare conditions in rural areas, particularly for women and children.
“We do want to see as much financial assistance as possible for kids in the bush to get tertiary education,” she said.
“[But] realistically speaking, with the way the economy is, the present government is tightening the belt, I very much doubt there will be any additional assistance in the foreseeable future.”
Mrs Cameron said the CWA had been behind the push to give young people in inner regional areas, such as Orange, the same youth allowance conditions as those in outer regional, remote and very remote areas, meaning students only had to earn 75 per cent of the minimum wage over 18 months to be deemed independent of their parents.
But the added requirement of the “income ceiling”, where students whose parents have a combined income of $150,000 annually miss out on youth allowance, remains the biggest restriction, she said.
“The reason a lot of country kids don’t go to uni is that they can’t afford to do it,” she said.
Mrs Cameron said few students would want to borrow money from the government for living expenses and tack on the extra repayments to their HECS debt, as suggested by Australian National University economics professor Bruce Chapman.