WA students want Austudy reform
By Angela Walker
PERTH — Western Australian students are calling for major improvements to student income support through reform of the Austudy scheme. Plans include a tent city and rally and a joint public forum with academic and teacher unions and secondary students on May 21.
According to Rachel Ball of the Austudy Reform Action Group at the University of WA, students are taking up the issue of Austudy reform "partly because of the current economic climate.
"There are fewer part-time jobs for students. Young people are being forced to take any work available, accepting lower wages and facing greater exploitation.
"In addition, Labor's education policy, which passes on costs to students through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, additional course fees and other charges, has meant that students are paying much more to study."
The students' campaign has two main aims: reduction from 25 to 18 of the age at which students are assessed as independent; an increase in Austudy payments of at least $30 weekly.
Previously, students had demanded an increase in Austudy to unemployment benefit levels, but the government had reduced unemployment benefits for 18-20 year-olds to the level of Austudy, Ball said.
Ball is disappointed with the attitude of the National Union of Students to the campaign: "I hoped that NUS would have been a bit more cooperative and enthusiastic about the Austudy campaign. You've got to back up lobbying with direct action."