Parents are struggling to pay school fees or to home tutor their young children because of the financial impact still being felt from the Gillard government’s suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia, the Coalition’s Regional Education spokesperson, Senator Fiona Nash, said.
The government suspended all trade to Indonesia in early June after the ABC aired television footage of cattle being mistreated. The ban was lifted nearly a month later but the effects are still being felt.
“The hardship is widespread and in many cases heart breaking. Take for example mums struggling to teach their young children at home because they’re needed to help on the farm, and parents wondering how they’re going to pay their children’s school fees because there’s little to no income coming in,” Senator Nash said.
Senator Nash is a member of the Senate Rural Affairs and Transport committee that’s holding an inquiry into the live export trade. The impact on education costs has been raised.
When it comes to the compensation packages, that is a really pertinent thing that the government has to consider. A lot of the women out bush are very motivated about education because we see that for our kids there is sometimes not really a future in what we do. Though the kids often want to come back, we want to give them the opportunities and we cannot always do that through School of the Air. As good as it is, there is a limit to the social side of it, and once the kids get to school age they often do need to go to boarding schools. There is not always a lot of choice in where they can go. Sometimes it depends too on the kids' interests. People often say it is a bit of a luxury to be able to send your kid to boarding school. It is not; it is a necessity for a lot of these people. – Joanne Bloomfield, Hodgson River Station, Katherine.
It is hugely impacting on a lot of families. I do not know whether it is embarrassing. You do not want your children to know that you cannot afford to keep them at school, because the children more than likely would say, 'Well, we won't do this or we won't do that.' It just has a huge impact on the family unit. The other thing is that I have spoken to families who have younger children who are on School of the Air. The situation I am finding there is that, if they cannot afford their home tutor because of this cattle ban, mum is doing it. But what is happening is that the mothers are having to go out and help on the station because they cannot afford the additional labour, so really kids who are meant to have a home tutor there and be helped through their education, whether they be five, eight or 10 years old, are now finding that their mum is having to help outside, so they are left to their own devices and they are not getting the education they should be getting. It is simply through the lack of money for these families to pay the home tutors….We will not have any income until next March-April. How do I pay the school fees? How does the school in Queensland keep operating? If they have 20 or 30 children who are in the same situation, how do they operate as a school? It is our choice that it is a private school but it was not our choice for the ban. We had budgeted so that we could afford to finish her education, and now everything has been thrown into chaos. - Tina Macfarlane, Stylo Station, Mataranka.
Other examples include:
· Parents with two children at boarding school are facing the prospect of having to bring them home to study via distance education or board in Katherine, which will be highly disruptive for their final years of school.
· Parents with one child doing pre-school via distance education and another younger child experiencing behavioural difficulties in the school room, are experiencing health concerns, which is in turn affecting their children’s education.
· Other parents are unable to afford and therefore send their two young children to school functions or trips, and can no longer save money towards their secondary schooling. The mother who home tutors the children found that the additional stress is impacting her ability to be an effective teacher, leading to poorer scholastic results.
· Parents with two children at university can no longer afford to support them. The money has had to be directed to cattle production costs without any prospect of income from the cattle. Both students have had to find additional work in order to supplement their meagre incomes.
“More and more parents are starting to come forward to reveal how difficult it’s been to pay their children’s education costs along with other commitments on an extremely tight budget,” Senator Nash said.
“As the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association points out, many families living in remote locations have no choice but to educate their children via distance education and send them to boarding school for their secondary years. Boarding and travelling costs are expensive. Normally they plan and save for these costs but this has been made incredibly difficult since the ban on the live export trade, through no fault of their own.
“I fully support the ICPA in calling on the federal government to provide urgent financial assistance to help these families. It has an obligation to do so.”
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