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International Education Providers Assistance

11 Aug | '2021

 

I’m pleased to hear that those on the other side agree with these bills. We know that, before COVID-19 hit, the Gold Coast international education sector contributed $1.6 billion to the local economy and $40 billion to the national economy. It has taken a hard hit. It was the first sector to be damaged, and unfortunately, it will be the last one to recover.

Before I outline the detail in these bills, I would like to highlight the assistance that the federal government has delivered for international education providers since the pandemic hit. JobKeeper, of course, was a huge help to education providers in Moncrieff, across the Gold Coast and, indeed, across the country. Australians should know that it’s the Morrison government that has assisted Queenslanders, including international education providers, with $30 billion of financial support already delivered.

We continue to support individuals through the South-East Queensland lockdown with COVID-19 disaster payments of up to $750 a week—and I’m very pleased that the lockdown was lifted yesterday at 4.00 pm. Those who were in lockdown can apply from yesterday through Services Australia, and I encourage those who’ve lost work hours to do so. We on this side continue to stand behind Australians as we always have. In April this year the Morrison government provided more than $53 million of targeted support for international education providers most-affected by COVID-19 border closures. The measures have benefited thousands of domestic and international students and Australian businesses who support local jobs.

Let me outline for Australians what these measures are and then some real life examples from my electorate. There are an extra 5,000 short-course places for domestic students, and around 100 eligible non-university higher education providers—or NUHEPs, as they’re known—in 2021-22 are being supported with $21.6 million in funding. Short courses are to be offered in any discipline. This will support NUHEPs affected by the decline in international enrolments to pivot their businesses to domestic delivery.

Priority has been given to those on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students, known as CRICOS—and I will go through a few of the acronyms for those listening at home. Around 30,000 existing and prospective students will benefit from lower fees through the extension of FEE-HELP loan fee exemption until the end of this year.

The Innovation Fund was announced as part of the $53.6 million package of measures to support international education providers in the 2021-22 federal budget. There is $9.7 to establish the innovation grant fund to allow eligible private higher education and English language intensive courses for overseas students—or ELICOS providers—registered on CRICOS to apply for up to $150,000. Applicants were required to demonstrate the effect of border closures on business turnover, outline their efforts to adapt to the current operating environment and demonstrate how they would benefit from the grant funding. I can now report back to the House that three schools in my electorate of Moncrieff—Inforum Education Australia, Shafston International College and BROWNS English Language School—have just in the last week been awarded grants of $149,500 from this fund, which will help to provide them the opportunity to adjust their business models, to grow their market base and to improve online delivery.

When I spoke to Richard Brown last week, he was still full of passion for his sector. We agreed that this grant will by no means replace the students that they’ve lost or the revenue and the staff but it will assist him to engage with stakeholders he needs to reinvent his business model. Richard told me that he very much appreciated this assistance, as it’s been difficult to carry the blows of the last 18 months during the pandemic. His plea, in which I join, is for all Australians to get vaccinated as soon as possible so that the international education sector can once again thrive and prosper on the Gold Coast and indeed across the country.

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