Teachers who choose to spend time in rural schools will have their student debt wiped in a bid to cover regional education staff shortages.
The federal government will clear the HELP debt for those who spend four years teaching in a very remote location at a primary or secondary school, day care centre or preschool.
Eligible teachers will have waived either the debt of their initial teaching degree or whatever debt remains when they start the teaching position, whichever is less.
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It will initially be open to teachers who have been in remote locations since 2019, meaning those already teaching in those areas can get a head start.
Teachers are expected to save an average of $35,000, with up to 2000 people estimated to immediately benefit.
An additional 500 extra teachers are expected to become eligible each year.
Education Minister Jason Clare said there was a serious teacher shortage across the nation and it was worse in rural communities.
About 300 remote schools across the country will benefit from the scheme.
“Your impact is bigger. Your chance to shape and change and improve the lives of people is bigger,” Mr Clare said of working in remote communities.
It will also help communities with high Indigenous populations, who statistically are less likely to finish school and go to uni.
“In a school like this, where 75 per cent of the kids are Indigenous, that really matters,” Mr Clare said while announcing the policy in Menindee, in outback NSW.
“I don’t want us to be a country where your chances in life depend on who your parents are, where you live or the colour of your skin.
“We can do something about that … to help make sure young people get a chance at a great education.”
The minister said the scheme could be expanded if it works well.
The Australian Education Union welcomed the scheme, saying the government needed to find long-term solutions to address the teacher shortage crisis.
“This is a significant move to address teacher shortages and will encourage teachers across the country to move to areas where schools need them the most,” union president Correna Haythorpe said.
The places covered by the scheme are those defined as “very remote areas” by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, including large parts of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and northwest NSW.
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