Fed govt to rip $30mln from NT education

Some $30 million will be cut from a Northern Territory remote truancy scheme that docked welfare money from parents whose kids skipped school.

The federal government will scrap a controversial $30 million program that docks the welfare payments of Northern Territory parents whose children skip school in remote communities.

The School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM), which was part of the NT Intervention response, had been branded as racist by Aboriginal groups and tagged as ineffective by the United Nations.

From 2018, the scheme will be canned allowing the federal coalition to claw back $29.6 million over four years.

But the commonwealth will continue to fund social workers and truancy officers in the 23 NT communities and 52 schools where SEAM currently operates.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the "badly designed and woefully implemented program" was put in place by the previous Labor government. Three evaluations since 2013 found no evidence that it delivered change.

"I am absolutely confident that there will be no adverse impacts on students by this decision," Senator Scullion said on Monday.

"I believe that most communities would in fact support the government's decision to refocus its efforts on more practical measures."

Senator Scullion also criticised the long lag period between truancy offences and Centrelink penalties.

NT Education Minister Eva Lawler said truancy officers with a permanent SEAM-funded position will retain their roles, which will eventually have a "greater engagement" focus.

The commonwealth has spent more than $128 million on the Remote School Attendance Strategy since 2013, and almost 50 per cent of the money went to the NT.

Next year, the Turnbull government's investment per NT student will be $9,092 against a national average of $5,335.

Almost half of NT students live in remote or very remote locations, with many speaking English as a second language.

"Despite our efforts, indigenous attendance rates continue to decrease with remoteness. Some remote schools had attendance rates as low as 30 per cent in 2017," Senator Scullion said.

Meanwhile, the NT continues to lag significantly behind the rest of the country in all NAPLAN measures, reflecting higher levels of socio-economic disadvantage.

2 min read
Published 18 December 2017 at 12:04pm
Source: AAP