Months after the first education drought support payments lightened the load in bank accounts of rural families, the Queensland council of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association is lobbying for it to become a permanent part of drought assistance in the state.
A new budget measure last year meant that $1250 per student per year was paid to people receiving Living Away From Home Allowance in drought declared shires in December, and another payment is due in June this year.
ICPA is concerned that because the measure is a budget allocation for only the next three years, activating it the next time drought bites as hard will require a duplication of work.
It was one of the issues put to Education Minister Kate Jones when state councillors took their rural education lobby to Brisbane last week.
State president Kim Hughes said members wanted proactive policy rather than reactive things happening.
“We don’t want to start from scratch,” she said. “We don’t want education to be something that’s sacrificed when you’re in drought.”
She said Ms Jones had been very positive about the idea, as she had been about a number of other ICPA requests.
For the first time, a rural and remote branch is operating within Education Queensland, which Ms Hughes said was dedicated to the types of issues ICPA was bringing to them.
“It was announced at conference last September and it has really streamlined our lobby,” she said. “Everyone is around the same table, and we’re not repeating issues all over the department.”
She said it was something that could be taken on by other government departments.
ICPA state council members made sure bush families’ concerns about suggestions to remove the universal service obligation that requires everyone in Australia to have access to a fixed telephone line, were heard.
“It’s a federal issue but it impacts Queensland families greatly,” she said.
“Students in home schoolrooms might have to use satellite telephones, with their latency and weather outage issues, and they need to be hooked up to mains power.
“We asked the minister to raise it with her federal counterparts.”
Keeping families in bush communities is the key theme underpinning ICPA’s efforts, and attracting and keeping quality teachers in rural areas is an important part of that, according to Ms Hughes.
She said councillors spoke to Ms Jones about ways to attract the best teachers to the regions, such as offering more rural and remote pracs for student teachers, financial incentives, involving communities, and lobbying universities to put rural and remote subjects in their courses.
“We want it to be second nature, by the time they’re out of uni, to understand the idea of teaching multi-age classrooms, and about the challenges with technology.
“We’ve got good teachers but we need more, and we need them to stay.
“It’s not about doing your time, but about becoming part of a community.
“To offer what the metro schools offer, we have to attract this sort of teacher.”
State ICPA is planning a day at Parliament House in May, button-holing as many MPs as they can in an effort to impress upon them the importance of keeping people in rural communities.
Ways of doing that will include high schools delivering robust curricula, among other things.
“If we can’t offer an education that’s on a par with more urban areas, people will leave,” Ms Hughes stressed.
The story ICPA wants drought support built into state allowance first appeared on North Queensland Register.