26 September 2023

Helping hand for bushfire-affected students

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The Department of Education is set to offer additional mental health support to children in bushfire-declared communities.

Students from bushfire-affected areas will also receive special consideration to access scholarships for higher education.

Announcing these measures, Minister for Education, Dan Tehan said he had convened a meeting of education sector representatives to discuss the way forward for students affected by the bushfires.

“The message from that meeting was loud and clear: We need to focus on our young people’s mental health because these bushfires will impact communities long after the flames are extinguished,” Mr Tehan said.

“Our Government will provide an additional $8 million for mental health support through Beyond Blue to fund an extra 25 Beyond Blue liaison officers and supporting clinicians to work with local schools and early childhood services in bushfire-affected communities.”

He said his Department would also offer extra funding for school chaplains which would be available to State and Territory Governments on request.

The Government would also re-prioritise funding within the Community Child Care Fund for bushfire-affected areas.

He said the funding could help pay for temporary premises, replacement of damaged playground equipment, or wages for affected staff.

Mr Tehan said the families of more than 90,000 children in bushfire-declared Local Government Areas (LGAs) that might incur a Child Care Subsidy activity test debt for the 2019-20 financial year, would now be exempt.

“Families can still claim the Child Care Subsidy even if their work, study or volunteering hours have been impacted by the bushfires,” he said.

“When it comes to rebuilding schools, funding is available through the jointly-funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangement for the restoration of essential public assets, including public schools.”

He said that in order to help students from bushfire-affected communities to attend university, special consideration would be given to their circumstances if they applied for scholarships through the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program.

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