Rural people are used to big distances and weather stopping them from getting where they need to go, but an extra layer of airport security, together with fog and bird strikes, brought a few extra challenges for 170 delegates and guests attending the 46th Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association federal conference in Alice Springs.
Sheer determination to be a voice for rural children’s education saw them go to great lengths to overcome the challenges and attend what was described as “an extraordinary conference that will be remembered for years to come”.
Themed From the Heart of Australia, For the Future of our Kids, communications issues once again dominated, with 25 of 99 motions asking ICPA to lobby federal government ministers, nbn co, and retail service providers for reliable, affordable and sustainable connectivity to ensure education is delivered to every child in Australia, regardless of where they live.
Re-elected federal president, Wendy Hick, said there were always students in the bush affected by the uncertainty of the Universal Services Obligation agreement, poor internet speeds and connectivity, low data plans, and difficulty accessing technical assistance, that was causing disruption in learning.
Not surprisingly, travel was a hot topic at the Alice Springs conference.
Travel costs to get children to compulsory schooling as well as to and from university study is often debilitating for families who are already struggling to meet the costs of the education itself.
While some state allowances do exist, they vary widely between states, with some students receiving little to no assistance to get to and from their place of schooling.
ICPA members called upon the federal government to establish a national travel allowance for students for compulsory schooling and to adjust the timeframe that post-compulsory students must wait in order to receive a fares allowance through the Youth Allowance.
In total, 10 presenters showcased innovative ways of raising awareness of the issues facing rural and remote students.