Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Increasing school attendance and enrolment in Queensland

Joint Media Release with:

  • Joint Media Release with Anna Bligh MP, Queensland Premier

Families in the Logan suburbs of Woodridge, Kingston, Logan Central and Eagleby, and the communities of Doomadgee and Mornington Island will take part in a trial linking school enrolment and attendance with welfare payments.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, today said the attendance component of the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) would start in term four 2009.

The enrolment component will begin in term one 2010, following data exchange.

These new measures are aimed at increasing school enrolment and attendance by encouraging parents to take positive steps to lift their children’s school attendance.

Around 2000 parents receiving income support in the trial sites will be required, if requested, to demonstrate to Centrelink that their children are enrolled, and that they are taking reasonable steps to make sure their children attend school regularly. Thirty schools will be involved in this measure across the trial sites.

Parents who fail to enrol their children in school or fail to take reasonable steps to get their children to school may have their income payments suspended until the problem is resolved.

Ms Macklin said education was essential to give children the best chance in life.

‘We need to work with parents to make sure their children are going to school so these children are given the best chance to go on and acquire the necessary skills to get a job or undertake further education,’Ms Macklin said.

‘Temporarily withholding a parent’s income support will be a last resort. This will only occur when the parent has failed, despite help from the school and Centrelink, to exercise parental responsibility.

‘Centrelink already has the authority to suspend payments for breaches, such as failing to provide a change of address or failing to update financial records, which it does as required.’

If an income support payment is withheld, full back pay will be provided when parents meet their responsibilities. The maximum suspension period will be 13 weeks.

Ms Bligh said SEAM represented the best chance to offer students the best education possible.

‘Our teachers are doing great work in our classrooms but that can only be effective if kids are showing up for school,’Ms Bligh said.

‘Teachers simply can’t offer students the best possible chance at a thorough education if our school attendance is not constant and regular.

‘Just this week we’ve seen the results of national testing of our students across primary and high school and those results have seen marked improvement.

‘Regular school attendance can only result in further improvements in those literacy and numeracy results.

‘The Queensland Government will be working with the Commonwealth to ensure we have a strong partnership between Centrelink and Queensland schools.

‘This trial will be the first in large, mainstream, urban communities and I am determined to give it the best chance of working in the interests of children.’

Discussions about the scheme are currently being held with the trial communities, education authorities and stakeholders.

SEAM will complement existing Queensland Government initiatives to ensure children are enrolled and are attending school.

The Northern Territory communities of Hermannsburg, Wallace Rockhole, Tiwi Islands, Katherine and town camps and Wadeye are already taking part in the trial.

The Australia Government has provided $21.4 million to establish and administer the trials in the Northern Territory and Queensland.