darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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December 2, 2011

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is vowing to keep up the fight for a fairer deal for regional students, despite forcing the Gillard Government to backflip on its controversial ‘inner’ regional classification for Independent Youth Allowance.

Mr Chester said he was pleased that the discriminatory ‘inner’ regional classification had been abolished, but warned there was a ‘long way to go’ before regional students and their families would be on a level playing field with city-based students.

He cautioned Gippsland students and their families to seek advice before making decisions to take a ‘gap’ year because they may still miss out on funding support.

Legislation has been passed in both Houses of Parliament to amend the previous policy. Under the changes, students living in Gippsland towns such as Sale, Yarram, Traralgon, Morwell and Churchill will finally be treated the same as students living in Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance and Orbost.

Mr Chester said while the battle was over for many ‘inner’ regional students the whole Independent Youth Allowance debacle should never have occurred in the first place and the system still prevented many families from receiving much-needed financial assistance to meet living away from home costs.

“The backflip on this issue was long overdue and the amended legislation will benefit many students and families from areas that were previously classed as ‘inner’ regional in Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.

“But the whole mess which was created by Julia Gillard when she was Education Minister could have easily been avoided. The system was doomed to fail because she failed to listen to the concerns of regional students, parents and teachers.”

“The changes are long overdue but there are still some inconsistencies including rules which prevent students whose parents have a combined income of $150,000 from receiving any support. On the one hand the government is saying that students can take a ‘gap’ year and earn money but then refuses to classify them as independent if their parents’ combined income exceeds the threshold.”

Mr Chester said he would continue to advocate for a complete overhaul of the student income support system.

“The system is broken and there’s still a long way to go to improve the level of support for all regional students and increase university participation,” Mr Chester said.

“We need a simpler Tertiary Access Allowance to help students and families with the additional costs they face when relocating which are not faced by students who have the option of staying at home while studying.”

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