ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: One step forward, two steps back

15 April 2013

Joint media release with Youth Coalition of the ACT.

Two peak bodies in Canberra – the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and the Youth Coalition of the ACT – say that it is vital the Gonski reforms are implemented, but this should not occur at the expense of another part of the education system.   

There are many ways to raise government revenue in the Federal Budget. It was a shock to hear on the weekend that whilst a fortnight ago it was considered impossible to cut superannuation tax concessions for anyone but the top 1-2% income earners, this week, it is considered reasonable to cut over $2 billion of university funding to pay the Commonwealth contribution to the Gonski school reform recommendations.

ACTCOSS Director, Susan Helyar, says, “Since the release of the Gonski recommendations, there has been universal agreement that students who experience disadvantage in the education system, and the schools that support them, need more funding. But it is short sighted to fund this funding out of funding for universities.”

Emma Robertson, Director of the Youth Coalition, adds, “The excitement around the implementation of the Gonski review was that it was a step forward for equity and justice in the education system. Funding cuts to universities take this country two steps back, dividing different parts of our education system.”

Both ACTCOSS and the Youth Coalition fear that as universities look to raise revenue in other ways, added expense will be passed on to students, so disadvantaged and vulnerable students will end up continuing to miss out. Equally concerning is that cuts to university funding will mean fewer student support services, higher class ratios and inevitably staff having less time to support students.

“Tertiary education is already inaccessible for a number of students,” says Ms Robertson. “Cutting funding to universities may result in even less students being able to access high-quality further education. There needs to be more funding for our whole education system to be inclusive, rather than creating divisions.”

Adds Ms Helyar, “Not only is this a question of equality, and the right to education, but it is an economic issue as well. Research shows us that people with higher level qualifications have higher rates of participation in the labour force and lower unemployment rates. Median earnings are also higher among employed people who have a graduate or bachelor qualification.”

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, ACT Council of Social Service on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200,
or Emma Robertson, Director, Youth Coalition of the ACT on 02 6247 3540.