Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), the state’s youth peak body, welcomes the Liberal National Opposition’s announcement to create, if elected, a new program to help students from rural and regional Victoria relocate and settle into tertiary study.

The proposal would provide $600,000 over four years to create a Rural Tertiary Network to link students who have moved away from home to study at one of Victoria’s regional or Melbourne universities or TAFEs with other students with a similar experience. The scheme would also establish a ‘pop-up hub’ as a base to support rural students and their families as they start tertiary education.

YACVic commends the plan as a positive step to reduce isolation and ensure good mental health and wellbeing for students who have moved away from their rural communities to study.

YACVic’s Rural initiative has met with hundreds of young people all around Victoria, as well as their families and the services that support them. We know that rural and regional students can struggle to access tertiary education away from home. With limited local options, young people often have to move away to study their desired course. They can then face multiple challenges, including increased costs of living, having to quickly learn independent living skills, and the sense of disconnection and dislocation from family and friends. We’ve heard from students that the ‘culture shock’ they face when moving away can be as big as the financial barrier to accessing education, and can even lead to some returning home without completing their studies. 

YACVic has long recognised, and worked to address, the unique challenges young people in rural and regional Victoria face compared to their metropolitan counterparts. There’s much to celebrate about living in rural and regional Victoria. Unfortunately, young people there are currently disadvantaged compared to their metropolitan peers, as they lack access to support services, and face restricted employment, study and transport options. We agree with Shadow Minister for Youth Affairs, Steph Ryan, that young people from country Victoria deserve the same opportunities as city kids.

When it comes to education, young people in rural and regional areas have told us they want more support, more options, and more pathways to a meaningful career. In response, we’re calling for additional investment to provide a wide range of high quality and meaningful education pathways that meet students’ needs and interests, including geographically accessible VET, VCAL and flexible learning options, support for all students to access the Navigator program, equitable funding  and an inclusive education plan for all schools.

All young people should be able to access to appropriate and aspirational careers education, and meaningful work experience programs that connect to local employment pathways. We also need further support, including financial support, for more young people from rural and regional communities to access tertiary education, as well as strengthened study pathways between education settings.

In addition, our Youth Work Matters campaign continues to highlight the need for more trained, supported youth workers in our state, particularly in currently-underserved rural towns.

We will continue to work with young people, the sector that supports them, and all political parties to further support and strengthen our rural and regional communities. We hope the announcement marks the start of further election commitments from all parties to young Victorians across our state.

Further comment: Leo Fieldgrass – CEO, Youth Affairs Council Victoria – 0439 254 667 or [email protected]