Press Conference – University of Canberra Hospital – Wednesday 29 May 2024


SUBJECTS: Commonwealth Prac Payment; Making HECS fairer; Universities Accord; AAT Decisions

ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning, everyone. I’m Alicia Payne, the member for Canberra, and it’s wonderful this morning to be here at the UC Hospital with Minister Jason Clare, Michelle Lincoln from UC and some of our fantastic nursing students. UC is obviously such an important place for our nursing students and also teaching students to train and learn here in Canberra. And we are so pleased today to be here talking about the Commonwealth Prac Payment, which is about supporting people in these incredibly important career paths to manage doing prac while they are studying, and also, of course, trying to, you know, pay for their housing and their cost of living while learning to be nurses, teachers or social workers. This is a really important step to getting behind our students, making sure that we are backing in the aspirations of Australians to work in these degrees. And I’m really pleased now to hand over to Minister Jason Clare.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thanks, Alicia. G’day, everyone. There’s big things in the Budget for students. One of those is the cuts we’re making to HECS debt. We’re wiping about $3 billion of HECS debt for more than 3 million Australians, including about 57,000 young people here in the ACT.

The other one is Paid Prac. For the first time ever, the Commonwealth Government is going to provide financial support for teaching students, for nursing students, for midwifery students and social work students, to help them while they do the practical part of their degree.

A lot of students have told me that when you do the prac part of your degree, you’ve either got to give up your part time job or you’ve got to move away from home. And for a lot of people, that can mean delaying finishing their degree or not finishing their degree at all. We need more teachers, we need more nurses, we need more midwives and we need more social workers. These are some of the most important jobs in this country. These are people who are going to teach our kids, who are going to look after us when we’re sick or when we’re old, going to help women during childbirth and help support women in domestic violence refuges. And that’s why this is important. It’s a bit of practical support for people while they do their practical training.

It’s all part of the Universities Accord, which is a blueprint for how we reform and improve our university system, our higher education system, over the next decade and beyond. And in the Budget, we’ve bitten off a big part of that. We’re implementing, in full or in part, about 29 of the 47 recommendations in that report. And that’s just the first stage of the work that we’re doing to implement the Universities Accord, which is all about building a better and a fairer education system. Michelle, could I ask you to make a few comments and then some of the students.

MICHELLE LINCOLN, DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR: Good morning, everyone. I’m Michelle Lincoln, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic here at the University of Canberra. Welcome to the University of Canberra Hospital.

The Hospital itself is a partnership between UC and ACT Health where our students actually come into the hospital and learn on site here. We are delighted by the focus on students in Universities Accord and the most recent Budget. Anything that supports our students to study as much as they can, so as full time as they can and to assist them with the cost of placements is very, very welcome.

We’re also delighted by the increase in the number of enabling places that we’ll be able to access. At the University of Canberra, we have more than 182 enabling places currently and we would really like to expand that and offer support for more students to come to university, particularly from the rural and regional areas surrounding Canberra. So, both of those focuses are very, very welcome here.

But today is not about us. It’s actually about students. And so I would really love you to hear from our students. So, let me introduce you to Brandon, who is finishing soon, and Anna and Xanthe in second year of nursing. So, they’re about to head into lots of nursing placements. I think you were telling me more than ten weeks of full-time placement to go with your degree. So, would one of you like to talk?

BRANDON DAVENPORT: Hello, my name is Brandon Davenport. I’m a third year University of Canberra student. What to say? Lots of exciting placements to go through the degree. Nursing itself is quite a dynamic field. Lots of different areas of experience, interest in areas of specialty and lots of learning. So, I’m here today to show my support for the Government’s decision. I think that retaining a strong nursing workforce is going to be very important for Australia’s future. And as much as possible, supporting students through their placements means that we’re going to pump out better nurses, better midwives. Thank you.

ANNA HEIERMANN: Hi, my name is Anna. I am a second year nursing student. I think that this incentive is fabulous for all students that are eligible for it. It comes at a necessary time. Placements are an expensive cost to students. Sometimes if you travel to rural placements, we’re out of pocket. So, we are effectively paying for placement. And unfortunately that invaluable experience doesn’t pay our bills and our bills don’t stop. So, I think it’s a fabulous incentive. I’m really looking forward to seeing it put in place for my last placement, but I think it’ll be really great for the cohorts moving forward. It’ll enable people who have been putting off studying the degree, sorry. Because they weren’t financially able to provide for their families. We have single parents who are doing the degree, so I think it’s a really great incentive and it’ll hopefully provide more nurses in the future.

XANTHE ARMAMENTO: My name is Xanthe. I’m a second-year student with Anna. I think the supporting students on placement is incredible. Just because we have nurses everywhere, it’s an incredible degree. Again, you’ll find nurses everywhere. Supporting these nurses means not having to rely on one income, it means not having to rely on one income for groceries, it means not paying for rent in two separate places. And again, being able to support these people, these nurses means we’re better able to take care of you. There’s more support for more people in the workforce and again, we’re in a nursing shortage. If that means being able to retain more people or more nurses in the degree, that means being able to take care of a healthier Australia. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Why shouldn’t Andrew Giles be fired?

CLARE: The Minister has made it clear that the decision of the AAT doesn’t meet community expectations. Serious criminals to be deported. And it’s worth making the point that Ministers in this Government, in the first two years of this Government, have cancelled the visas of more serious offenders than the previous Government did in their last two years. The AAT made the decision to overturn the cancellation of visas. I can’t speak to individual cases here but do want to underline the point that the Minister’s made, that he’s asked the Department to quickly review those decisions.

JOURNALIST: The Department has admitted responsibility, but doesn’t the buck stop with the Minister?

CLARE: The Department recognised they didn’t brief the Minister properly and that they will correct that. That’s the right thing to do.

JOURNALIST: The case of the foreign criminal stating this is a direct result of Minister Gile’s Direction 99. Does that Direction meet community standards? And wouldn’t you think it’s time for Minister Giles to stand aside?

CLARE: That Direction sets out a number of things that the Tribunal needs to consider, including the seriousness of the offence. The Minister has made the point. Let me make the point again that the decision of the Tribunal does not meet community expectations. If you’re a serious offender, you’d want them deported out of Australia. The Minister’s made that point. I make that point as well.

JOURNALIST: So why not revoke that Direction? Don’t you think he should?

CLARE: The Minister has said that the decision of the Tribunal doesn’t meet community expectations. He’s now working with his department on reviewing those decisions.