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Budget 2004-2005


$444.4 million package to help sugar industry

The Australian Government will provide up to $444.4 million over five years for a comprehensive range of measures to help the nation’s sugar industry. The Sugar Industry Reform Programme 2004, will have as its centrepiece a $146.1 million sustainability grant and $75 million for regional and community projects.

The programme follows extensive consultation with industry representatives and peak groups. The measures agreed by the Australian Government for the sugar industries in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, directly respond to the concerns raised during the consultations.

The Australian Government will provide $5 million over the next five years to crisis counselling services for families in the sugar cane industry. This will allow more than 9,000 people from the sugar cane industry to access valuable financial counselling and family support services operated under the auspices of the Government Financial Counselling Programme and the Family Relationships Services Programme.

As part of the Government’s package of assistance to sugar cane farmers, older sugar cane farmers will be able to transfer their farm to the next generation without affecting their eligibility for social security Age Pension or Veteran Service Pension entitlements. The scheme (at a cost to the Australian Government of up to $23.3 million) will provide sugar cane farmers who satisfy certain criteria with a window of opportunity to gift their farm to the next generation and apply for the age pension without attracting the gifting rules that apply to income support payments.

The package also includes:

  • up to $21 million in income support for eligible growers, harvesters and their families;
  • up to $13 million in business planning assistance for growers and harvesters and up to $100,000 each for co-operative or single site mills;
  • generous re-establishment grants of up to $100,000 in 2004-05 for growers and $50,000 for harvesters who want to leave the industry;
  • retraining assistance for industry participants (growers, mill workers and other industry employees) displaced because of the reforms; and
  • up to $40.5 million in restructuring grants for growers who want to stay in the industry and undertake on-farm improvements.

Changed focus for Farm Help

The Budget provides $134.9 million to continue the Agriculture Advancing Australia programme Farm Help — Supporting Families through Change, over four years, commencing 2004-05, but with a renewed focus.

The new focus will be on supporting low-income farmers who are unable to borrow against their assets to make decisions to improve their long-term viability. The programme will continue to assist farm families in severe financial difficulty while they assess their future in farming.

$66.7 million to extend FarmBis

The successful Agriculture–Advancing Australia programme, FarmBis, has received a further $66.7 million over four years commencing 2004-05.

Since 1997, about 150,000 primary producers across Australia have participated in FarmBis-subsidised training and education. Consistent with the existing FarmBis arrangements, this funding is contingent on matching funding from the States and the Northern Territory.

Financial Counselling service funded for 4 more years

The Budget has ensured continuation of the Rural Financial Counselling Service by providing $23.3 million over four years, commencing 2004-05, for financial information, referrals and decision-support for farm families in financial difficulties.

A review in 2005 will assess the efficiency of current RFIS delivery arrangements.

Australian Government partners industry for growth

The 2004-05 budget has provided $4.7 million for a new, one-year Industry Partnerships trial in the Agriculture-Advancing Australia programme.

The trial will engage targeted industries in close, information-driven partnerships to identify future challenges, training and leadership needs, market opportunities and adjustment pathways.

Budget extends animal and plant disease response

A programme to ensure Australia is ready to respond to biosecurity threats and animal and plant disease emergencies has been extended by a further four years.

The Government has provided $21.6 million in the 2004-05 Budget for the Building a National Approach to Animal and Plant Health — to strengthen Australia’s animal and plant health status.

Budget Funding Attacks on Avian Influenza

Australia will be better protected against the threat of Avian Influenza thanks to $2.1 million in 2003-04 and $6.2 million in 2004-05.

The funding will be used to enhance border protection at airports and seaports and to strengthen protection against a viral epidemic such as Avian Influenza. It will also be used to employ extra staff and for a targeted awareness campaign.

$3 million to finalise Regional Development Proposals

Current contractual arrangements under the Agricultural Development Partnership (ADP) programme will be met as a result of existing Budget funding of $3 million for 2004-05. The ADP programme will end in June 2005.

The Government has completed funding agreements for Structural Adjustment in the Northern Adelaide Plains and the Kangaroo Island Project, and is continuing negotiation with remaining States. Two further projects with State funding support are at an advanced stage of negotiation.

Marine pest fight gets $3.7 million

The Australian Government has provided $3.7 million over three years commencing in 2004-05 to further develop a national system to manage introduced marine pests. The funds will go towards implementing the National System for the Prevention and Management of Marine Pest Incursions.

$15 million for Western Australia’s timber industry

Western Australia’s forestry industry and communities have received $15 million commencing 2004-05 to help offset the effects of the state government’s decision to cease logging in old-growth forests.

This includes $12.5 million over the next two years under the Forestry Assistance Programme for Western Australia, to promote investment and long-term job creation in the industry. An additional $2.5 million will be allocated under the Grants for Forest Communities Programme for small businesses that create employment in the forest industry.

Another $1 million for aquaculture

Australia’s fast growing aquaculture industry has received another $1 million in 2004-05 to build on initiatives which commenced last financial year. The Government provided $2.5 million in 2003-04 to begin implementing the Action Agenda for Aquaculture to realise the industry’s vision of sales of $2.5 billion by 2010.

$3.8 million to continue biotechnology Studies in Agriculture

The Budget has provided another $3.8 million over the next four years commencing 2004-05 to enable the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to pursue projects to assist the application of biotechnology in agriculture. The money is earmarked from a further $20 million over four years provided in the Budget for the National Biotechnology Strategy, which is part of a broader Government initiative, Backing Australia’s Ability.

National Landcare Programme

The Budget also extends the National Landcare Programme an additional two years by providing $80 million ($40 million in both 2006-07 and 2007-08). The Landcare programme is central to community involvement in natural resource management and the new funding will bring the Government’s investment in this programme to $159.5 million over the next four years.

Drought Assistance

The Australian Government has provided the most generous and comprehensive assistance ever for farmers who have been severely affected by the worst drought in memory. To date, $432 million has been spent on drought assistance for farmers and rural communities. The Australian Government commitment to farming communities battling drought is forecast to reach $1.1 billion by the end of 2005-06.

Health and Ageing

Rural Health Strategy

Since 1996, there have been a growing number of initiatives implemented to improve the health of rural Australians. The Regional Health Strategy: More Doctors, Better Services initiative in the 2000-01 Budget has provided more than $550.0 million in additional funding over four years from 2000-01 to 2003-04. This has introduced many new, well–targeted services and maintained access to numerous existing services that might otherwise have had difficulty in remaining financially viable or physically appropriate.

The 2004-05 Budget demonstrates the Australian Government’s continued commitment to the health and well being of rural and remote Australians. Building on the Regional Health Strategy, the Rural Health Strategy provides $830.2 million over four years from 2004-05 to 2007-08 for a flexible package of health and aged care services and workforce measures.

This will continue funding for:

  • existing rural primary health, allied health and medical specialist services;
  • recruitment and retention initiatives for general practitioners in rural areas;
  • long term rural workforce strategies; and
  • sustainable rural private health and aged care services.

The new Rural Health Strategy includes an increased focus on preventative health measures and improving access to services by more remote communities. The package introduces measures to support existing specialists who are currently delivering services in rural areas as well as continuing initiatives which has led to an expansion in outreach specialist services over the last four years.

This package of initiatives continues the important long–term rural workforce strategies and provides increased access to services for rural Australians. By focussing new initiatives on preventing ill health and injury, and increasing emphasis on addressing needs in more remote communities, the Rural Health Strategy will make an important contribution to addressing poorer health in rural and remote Australia.

Rural Primary Health

The Rural Primary Health programme will combine three programmes from the previous Regional Health Strategy. These are the Regional Health Services (RHS) Programme, the More Allied Health Services (MAHS) Programme, and the Rural Chronic Disease Initiative (RCDI).

The Rural Primary Health Programme will continue to fund current RHS and MAHS services, which are highly valued by their communities. There were 113 RHS providing access to primary health services in about 900 rural communities in March 2004. There are 65 rural Divisions of General Practice funded to provide additional allied health services, such as mental health workers, social workers, podiatrists, physiotherapists and dieticians.

The Government recognises that as well as improving access to services and contributing to the retention of the rural health workforce, it is necessary to take steps to address more directly the causes of health differences between metropolitan and rural and remote Australians. It is also necessary to make greater effort to extend allied and primary health services to more remote areas. Building on the successful Rural Chronic Disease Initiative, and with the addition of a further $7.8 million over 2004-05 to 2007-08, these two new priorities will be addressed.

Some of the funding will be used for Primary Health Projects. Using the RCDI model, these projects will focus on issues particularly prevalent in rural and remote areas, such as obesity, low levels of physical activity, smoking and harmful alcohol consumption, and the high rates of injury.

Rural Specialist Support

The Government will continue to fund specialist medical services in rural communities under the Rural Specialist Support component, which builds on the Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Programme.

This commitment includes additional funding of $6 million over 2004-05 to 2007-08 to support established rural specialists, who were not eligible for assistance under the previous Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Programme.

Workforce Support for Rural General Practitioners

Existing and newly arrived general practitioners will continue to be supported through the Rural Divisions of General Practice. This includes mentoring newly arrived GPs, helping them continue professional development, GP health support programmes and support for overseas trained doctors.

New General Practitioner Registrars

The New General Practitioner Registrars Initiative increases the number of GP registrars in the general practice vocational training programme who are undertaking training in rural and remote areas.

Funding has been provided for an additional 50 rural training places and incentive payments to encourage general practice registrars to take up the rural training places.

This initiative immediately increases access to general practice services in rural and remote areas and aims to increase the number of general practitioners in these areas in the longer term.

Rural Australian Medical Undergraduate Scholarships

The Australian Government will continue to fund Rural Australian Medical Undergraduate Scholarships.

Each year 500 undergraduate students with a rural background and limited financial means are provided with a scholarship of $10,000 to help support them to undertake medical training. It is very popular with medical students and the scheme has been fully subscribed since its inception.

The scheme encourages a rural medical focus through a rural GP mentoring programme.

Rural Clinical Schools

The Government is providing continued funding for the national network of Rural Clinical Schools.

The Rural Clinical Schools Programme encourages medical students to take up a career in rural practice by providing students with exposure to rural practice through long-term placements in rural areas during their clinical training years. From the commencement of the 2004 academic year, one–quarter of medical students will undertake half of their clinical training in a rural location.

Almost 150 students undertook long–term clinical placements in rural areas in 2003.

As well as providing education and training for medical students in a rural setting, the programme supports health professionals who are working in rural areas. Substantial funding is also injected into local rural economies through the development of infrastructure such as student education and accommodation facilities and the provision of recurrent funding for the operation of the Schools.

University Departments of Rural Health

University Departments of Rural Health, which aim to increase the recruitment and retention of a wide range of health care professionals, including medical professionals, will continue to receive funding.

A significant infrastructure has now been established to support the development of academic, research and clinical activity with more than 100 academic staff appointed to rural and remote positions.

By providing support and making it easier for rural health professionals to maintain their training or upgrade their qualifications, health professionals will be encouraged to practise in the country.

Students and professionals from the city are also given a positive taste of rural life, and in particular, see the different health issues facing country people, all of which will lead to improved quality of care in rural communities.

HECS Reimbursement Scheme

The Australian Government will continue to fund the Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) Reimbursement Scheme, which aims to encourage medical graduates to pursue a career in rural practice.

Under the scheme, eligible medical graduates who complete their medical degrees in 2000 or later, will have one fifth of their HECS debt reimbursed for each year of training undertaken or service provided in Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Area 3-7 locations. Reimbursements are made to eligible graduates following an initial 12 months service in a designated rural area.

Increasing Access to Private Health Services in Rural Areas programme

Formerly the Bush Nursing, Small Community and Regional Private Hospitals Programme, this programme will provide assistance to private health providers and aims to support and increase the range of private health services available in rural areas.

The range of private health services available in rural areas will include step–down and rehabilitation services, palliative care services, ancillary services such as podiatry and physiotherapy and medical and surgical services. People in rural areas will be able to use their private health insurance for these services.

Adjustment grants for small rural aged care facilities

The Australian Government will continue to provide capital grants and viability funding for smaller rural and remote aged care facilities.

By keeping services open, older Australians and their families living in rural areas will have continued access to good quality, appropriate residential aged care in their own communities.

Communication Strategy

The Communication Strategy informs regional, rural and remote communities of current and future health service initiatives to be implemented in their area and will continue to receive funding.

The strategy also informs rural and metropolitan health professionals and students of rural health workforce recruitment and support opportunities.

Other Rural Initiatives

In addition to the above Rural Health Strategy measures, the health portfolio is also funding the following measures which are directed at improving the health and well-being of people living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia and in increasing and supporting the health workforce.

Increased Medical Rebate for Other Medical Practitioners

The Australian Government is reaffirming its commitment to rural Australians by continuing their access to higher Medicare rebates when visiting Rural Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs). Funding of $118.4 million will be provided from 2004-05 to 2007-08.

The Rural OMPs Programme was introduced in the 2000–01 Budget, in recognition of the value of services provided by non–vocationally registered medical practitioners in rural areas (RRMA 4–7 locations). The programme provided substantial financial benefits for their patients.

Other Medical Practitioners are medical practitioners who are not vocationally registered and whose patients, as a consequence, had received the lower Medicare rebate.

A review in 2003 confirmed that the programme resulted in an increase in the number of medical practitioners providing these services.

Additional Medical School Places for Queensland

The Government will provide $2.1 million from 2004-05 to 2007-08 for an additional 12 Medical school places a year at James Cook University in North Queensland from 2005, as part of the Bonded Medical Places Scheme.

The 12 additional bonded places at James Cook will provide it with a significant permanent increase in medical student numbers.

This initiative is in addition to the 234 bonded medical places made available in 2004.

The increase in medical school places, provided under Medicare Plus, is an important step in providing a long–term solution to medical workforce shortages.

A bonding period of six years will apply to students accepting one of the new medical places. Bonded doctors will be required to work in districts of workforce shortage, which include regional, rural and remote areas as well as many of the outer metropolitan areas of the capital cities.

In return, the Australian Government will contribute $16,154 a year per student to the costs of their undergraduate education. The students will pay a contribution of up to $7,854 (depending on their university's student contribution rates) through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

Small Residential Aged Care Facilities Accreditation Fees Subsidy

Subsidisation of the accreditation fees for small residential aged care homes, most of which are in rural and remote Australia, will continue with funding of $1.8 million from 2004-05 to 2007-08.

The measure will ensure that the cost of compulsory accreditation does not impose an inappropriate financial burden on facilities of 25 beds or less.

Viability funding for rural and remote aged care providers

As part of its Investing in Australia’s Aged Care-More Places, Better Care initiative, the Australian Government will provide an additional $14.8 million from 2004-05 to 2007-08 to increase the amount of the viability supplement available to rural and remote providers, so they can continue to provide high quality care. This supplement recognises the lower income stream available to, and high costs faced by, many rural and remote providers.

Medical Indemnity – Additional Assistance for Rural Procedural General Practitioners

In December 2003 the Australian Government announced funding of, through medical indemnity insurers, 75 per cent of the difference between the medical indemnity insurance premiums of procedural general practitioners in rural areas and those for non–procedural general practitioners in similar circumstances. The estimated cost of this measure is $13.4 million over the four years from 2003–04 and it will be absorbed within the Health and Ageing portfolio.


Building on the Australian Government’s increase in rural and remote doctors of 15 per cent since 1996, the MedicarePlus initiative will help GP proceduralists to develop and maintain their skills and provide an extra payment to rural and remote GPs. Procedural GPs will be reimbursed up to $10,000 for the cost of two weeks training each year. This funding will also reimburse the doctor for the costs of employing a locum as, in most cases, doctors would be required to leave their practice to attend training in capital cities. In addition, GPs in rural and remote areas performing procedural services that are 10 per cent or more of their total Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) workload will be eligible for a 10 per cent loading. Up to a maximum of a 30 per cent loading for 30 per cent procedural work. This loading will be available to practices registered in the Practice Incentives Programme. Increased rural retention payments will be continued for another four years to recognise the commitment of GPs who provide services to rural and remote communities for extended periods of time.

Under MedicarePlus, the Australian Government has provided an additional 150 general practice vocational training places each year to assist in the provision of an adequate general practice workforce. The 150 additional training places are to be targeted to areas of workforce shortage, particularly outer metropolitan and rural areas. Incentives will be provided to encourage GP registrars to undertake their training in rural and remote locations. GP registrars will provide services while they are training, which will immediately increase access to general practice services. The additional training places commenced from the 2004 calendar year, bringing the total number of training places to 600 per year.

In addition, MedicarePlus provided for up to 280 short–term supervised general practitioner placements each year for pre–vocational doctors, equivalent to around 70 full–time placements each year. This new initiative will commence in July 2004 and it is expected that around one–third of placements will be in rural and remote areas.

As part of the MedicarePlus package announced on 10 March, 2004 the bulk–billing incentive has increased from $5 to $7.50 for services provided in areas classified as Rural, Remote, Metropolitan Areas (RRMAs) 3–7, and in the whole of Tasmania, where those services are bulk billed and delivered to concession card holders and children under 16 years.

The Government has committed $131.2 million over four years from 2003–04 to 2006-07 for this initiative. Three new MBS items (10991, 64991 and 74991) have been created through a regulatory change to the Health Insurance Act 1973. These items mirror those already created as part of Medicare but with a rebate of $7.50. These items can only be claimed by providers delivering the services in RRMAs 3–7, or in Tasmania.

For the purposes of this initiative, Hobart is treated as a RRMA 3–7 area due to its very low bulk–billing rate and the rural nature of many of its outer metropolitan areas.

Royal Flying Doctor Service

The Australian Government continues to support the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in providing primary health care services to people living, travelling or working in rural and remote communities. Services include emergency medical retrievals as well as clinics provided in remote locations. A new multi-party agreement was signed with the RFDS in June 2003 providing over $100 million from 2002-03 to 2005-06.

Rural Women’s General Practitioner Service

The Australian Government will continue to fund the Rural Women’s General Practitioner Service, providing $2.2 million in 2004-05.

The Service, administered by the Australian Council of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), aims to improve access to primary and secondary health care for women in rural Australia who currently have little or no access to a female GP. It gives women in rural and large remote communities the opportunity to seek health care of their choice, providing personalised care and advice for those women who prefer to discuss their needs with a female doctor.

Aged care workforce support

The Australian Government provided $26.3 million in the 2002-03 Budget from 2002-03 to 2005-06 to encourage more people to enter or re-enter aged care nursing, especially in rural and regional areas. This initiative will offer up to 1000 scholarships over 4 years to people from rural and regional areas, funding these scholarships at up to $10,000 per annum. In 2004, the Australian Government has offered an additional 200 undergraduate aged care nursing scholarships to rural and regional students wishing to enter the aged care workforce.

$21.2 million from 2002-03 to 2005-06 was committed by the Australian Government in the 2002-03 Budget to fund training of care staff in smaller, less viable aged care homes, which tend to be in rural and regional areas. In 2004-05, about $5.2m will be used to assist staff receive significant and diverse additional training to:

  • upgrade the skills of personal care workers;
  • increase the availability of skilled staff in aged care homes; and
  • free registered nurses to concentrate on clinical care.

Education and Training

Country Areas Programme

In 2004–05, the Australian Government will provide an estimated $26 million under the Country Areas Programme (CAP) which will benefit Australian schools and students in rural and remote communities.

This represents an estimated increase of $1.3 million or 5.2 per cent over the previous year to government and non–government education authorities. Of the $26 million, an estimated $22 million will be provided to State government schools and an estimated $4 million will be provided to Catholic and independent schools. The Australian Government recognises that students attending primary and secondary schools in geographically isolated areas often have less access to educational opportunities than metropolitan students. Australian Government funds for CAP are provided to State and Northern Territory government schools for a wide range of activities that support the curricula, assist with transition to further education, training and work and support teacher professional development.

Activities typically funded through the Programme include provision of Languages Other Than English (LOTE), Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Schools and assistance with work experience expenses, excursions, music and sporting events — access to which is difficult for geographically isolated students.

Capital Grants Programme

In 2004–05 the Australian Government will provide a record $373.4 million as part of its school Capital Grants Programme. This represents an estimated increase of $26 million or 7.5 per cent over 2003–04.

The Programme provides State and Territory governments with funding to assist them to build, maintain and upgrade State schools throughout Australia. Australian Government funded projects typically include the construction of new schools, additional classrooms, libraries and other vital school facilities to improve educational opportunities for our children.

An estimated $1.5 billion will be provided for State and Territory government schools over the period 2004–05 to 2007–08. This funding boost also includes $17 million over the four years to provide specific capital grants funding for Catholic and independent schools in isolated areas and communities in the Northern Territory.

This funding will make a real difference to non–government school communities in remote and isolated regions who face substantially greater costs for capital construction and refurbishment than metropolitan and regional schools.

Rural New Apprenticeship options

The progressive implementation of the Rural Production and Horticulture National Training Packages across Australia has significantly expanded the range of rural production and horticulture New Apprenticeship options that are available for primary producers in all sectors, for production and other horticulturists, for gardeners and landscape gardeners, and for nursery operators and the like.

In most States and Territories, general agriculture and horticulture New Apprenticeships are now available at Certificate levels II, III and IV, in addition to a range of sector–specific New Apprenticeships for: pig production, goat production, sheep and wool poultry production, horse breeding, beef/cattle, milk, harvesting, dairy sugar, cane production, grain production, cotton rural merchandising production, horticulture, floriculture, landscape, nursery, parks and gardens, arboriculture and turf management.

Living Away From Home Allowance

New Apprentices may be eligible for Living Away From Home Allowance for the first 24 months of the New Apprenticeship if they have had to move away from the parental or guardian home to commence or remain in a New Apprenticeship (eligibility conditions apply).

New Apprenticeships Incentives Programme

The New Apprenticeships Incentives Programme provides financial incentives to employers who take on and train New Apprentices (apprentices and trainees). New Apprenticeships provide career opportunities in a broad range of industries and occupations. New Apprenticeships also provide added flexibility and options for employers and their New Apprentices to select the training provider of their choice. Training can be on–the–job, off–the–job or a combination of both.

Rural and Regional Skills Shortage Special Commencement Incentive

The purpose of the Rural and Regional Skills Shortage Special Commencement Incentive is to boost training in rural and regional Australia by providing a special commencement incentive for a rural or regional employer who employs a New Apprentice in a vocation where there is a skills shortage.

Group Training

Group Training is an arrangement whereby an organisation employs apprentices and trainees under an Apprenticeship/Traineeship Training Contract and places them with host employers. The organisation provides for continuity of their employment, additional care and support and manages their training. There are Group Training Organisations located in most regional centres.

Group Training New Apprenticeships Targeted Initiatives Programme

The programme is designed to increase New Apprenticeships in critical, challenging and under–serviced markets through group training arrangements.

New Apprenticeships Access Programme

New Apprenticeships Access Programme (NAAP) provides assistance to people who experience barriers to skilled employment to obtain and maintain a New Apprenticeship. Other successful outcomes are employment, further education and training. Participants receive nationally recognised vocational training that is linked to a New Apprenticeship pathway, job search assistance and general support.

Basic IT Enabling Skills for Older Workers Programme

Basic IT Enabling Skills (BITES) provides 11,500 older workers per year with the opportunity to undergo nationally recognised training in information technology. It is designed to help low-income, mature age (45 and over) job seekers gain nationally recognised skills in information and communication technology, in order for them to operate personal computers effectively at a basic level in the workforce. BITES courses are advertised locally and through Centrelink.

Language, Literacy and Numeracy

The Language, Literacy and Numeracy Programme provides basic language, literacy and numeracy assistance to job seekers, particularly young job seekers. The programme has been designed to help remove a major barrier to employment and improve participants' daily lives. Clients can be referred to this programme either by Centrelink or the Job Network.

Regional Loading — extra funding for regional universities

The Australian Government will provide an additional $146 million over five years from 2003-04 to incorporate a regional loading into the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) for students enrolled at regional campuses.

Commonwealth Learning Scholarships

The Australian Government will provide $329 million over five years (from 2003-04) for 40,000 new scholarships, which will be provided through two new scholarship programmes (as below) to assist rural, regional and Indigenous students from low socio–economic backgrounds with costs associated with higher education.

Commonwealth University Scholarships

The Commonwealth Education Costs Scholarships will provide successful students with $2,000 per year for four years to assist with their education costs. The Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarships (CAS) will provide successful students with $4,000 per year for four years to assist with the costs of studying away from home. More than 22,500 CECS scholarships will be offered over the next five years and more than 17,000 CAS scholarships over the same period.

These scholarships will particularly benefit students from regional and rural areas by providing assistance with the costs associated with living away from home, such as accommodation.

New Government–supported Higher Education Places

The Australian Government will be introducing 9,100 new Government–supported higher education places to institutions in 2005. These places will grow to 24,883 places by 2008 as students continue in their courses. Regional areas will benefit from this allocation. All institutions eligible for a share of the new places have been invited to submit bids against a range of criteria that have been developed in consultation with State and Territory governments. One criterion is ‘regional priorities’.

Australian Research Council

Research funded by the Australian Research Council advances the global knowledge and skills base leading to economic, social, cultural and environmental benefits for the Australian community.

Funding is allocated through a competitive grant assessment process with some of this funding directed towards objectives which benefit regional and rural Australia, agricultural production and technology.

Vocational Education and Training Priority Places

The Australian Government is establishing a new programme to directly purchase vocational education and training places for people with a disability, older workers and parents returning to the workforce.

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