The Turnbull-Morrison Government have made sure Australian schools are $17 billion worse off, with major funding cuts to education ushered in in 2017. This reduced funding directly affects Central Coast schools, and the impact doesn’t stop after graduating Year 12.
It is clear that post code still determines opportunity.
While recent national data indicates that the unemployment rate has remained at a steady 5.4 per cent, the unemployment rate on the Central Coast is higher, at 5.9 per cent.
Our young people are much less likely to have a job; with the youth unemployment rate at a staggering 16.9 per cent, well above the national average of 11.1 per cent.
On Sydney’s North Shore, 63.1 per cent of young people hold a bachelor’s degree, whereas on the Coast, it’s only 14 per cent. Year 12 completion rates are also much lower than the national average.
Last week, Labor announced a $174 million commitment to go towards mentoring, support, and other specialised programs designed to boost opportunities for tertiary education. This is particularly pertinent to the Central Coast, where graduation rates and levels of educational attainment are low.
This extra funding means that students who gain entry to university through alternative pathways, like the University of Newcastle’s Open Foundation program, are able to continue to do so, free of charge.
Open Foundation enables students who didn’t achieve success in the HSC another opportunity to pursue tertiary education. Great success has come from the Open Foundation program at University of Newcastle, with many students not only completing undergraduate degrees, but attaining post-graduate qualifications, too.
I was fortunate enough to meet with a number of students undertaking undergraduate degrees at the Ourimbah campus, after successfully completing Open Foundations. One student has even begun
Environmental Science student, Emily, says that “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the support of Open Foundations”. Emily appreciates the accessibility of the program, “had the program not been free, there’s no way I would be at university today”.
Programs like this are crucial in ensuring equity of access to aspiring students on the Central Coast. Labor’s commitment also enables universities to collaborate with TAFEs, secondary schools, and not-for-profit and community organisations in focus areas including mentoring and outreach.
Programs like this include AVID – Advancement Via Individual Determination – which supports and mentors secondary students who demonstrate an interest or potential for success in tertiary education.
On the Central Coast, Brisbane Water Secondary College and Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College have participated in AVID. Students in the program say it has given them new found confidence at school, and has inspired them to complete Year 12 and go on to university. For some of these students, they would be the very first in their family to do so.
A Shorten Labor Government is committed to accessible education for all students in Australia. It’s clear we need to support our young people on the Coast in their educational pursuits. We must make sure they flourish, not flounder. Only Labor will ensure the success of all students – not just those that can afford it.