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Rural Education Forum Australia

Rural Education Forum Australia

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Published by Nor 'adilah Anuar

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Published by: Nor 'adilah Anuar on Nov 18, 2011
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Rural Education Forum Australia Drought Policy Review Submission 1
Submission from The Rural Education Forum Australia
Submission Number: 206Public Submission received by Email to Drought Policy Review 14/08/08:
Submission to the Expert Social Panel Drought Policy ReviewRural Education Forum Australia August 2008
The Rural Education Forum Australia welcomes the opportunity to make asubmission to the Expert Social Panel Drought Policy Review.REFA was formed in 2002 in response to the HREOC Inquiry into Rural and RemoteEducation initiated in February 1999.REFA is a collective of national organisations which represent the consumers and/or  providers of education services in rural and remote Australia- see Appendix 1 for details.REFA’s vision is quality education and training outcomes in rural and remote areas,so that individuals, families and communities can develop their full potential in thesocial, economic, political and cultural life of the nation.REFA’s work recognises the importance and value of people in rural and remote areas being able to realise their full potential in their environment, and the fundamentalimportance of education in enabling them to do this.REFA’s work is based on principles of social justice, equity and improved access tothe range of goods, services and entitlements that impact on education or on servicesrelated to education and educational outcomes.
Position Statement
Vibrant and productive rural communities are integral to the long term sustainabilityof Australia. History as well as research (see Diamond 2005) tell us that countrieswhich fail to nurture things which are fundamental to sustainability, like the capacityto produce sufficient food for the population, make themselves vulnerable in times of  pressure as is currently the case with the prolonged drought conditions.It is widely acknowledged that rural communities in Australia (Hugo 2000, McSwan2003, Salt 2005) are experiencing fundamental changes socially, politically,environmentally and economically through loss of population, loss or consolidation of 
Rural Education Forum Australia Drought Policy Review Submission 2services, the impacts of globalisation, climate change, and the harvesting of naturalresources, frequently unsustainably, to feed growth.A particularly alarming aspect of the changes taking place in rural Australia is thedecline in the number of youth who remain in rural communities beyond schoolleaving age.Youth are usually focussed on the future and represent a key nation building asset.Hence it is REFA’s view that policies and programs that encourage and facilitateyouth- as well as others- to opt into the challenges of nation building are essential.This is especially the case during periods of drought where rural communities oftenexperience loss of population, depressed economic activity and are frequently ‘on thereceiving end’ of cuts in vital services like education.
Framing proactive educational policies and programs
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Inquiry into Ruraland Remote Education (2000) posited that education must be
available, accessible,affordable, acceptable and adaptable
so that children, youth and others who live andwork in rural and remote contexts “can receive the education [required] to participateto his or her full potential in the social, political and cultural life of the community”(HREOC, 2000, P. 2).In addition, the Australian Academy of Social Sciences has identified 5 capitals inrelation to sustainability. They are
natural, human, social, institutional and produced 
(Cocklin & Dibden, 2005). Retaining, and indeed in many instances enhancing thesefundamental assets for building community, needs to remain central to any review of  policies in relation to the impact of drought on individuals and their capacities to keepgoing when ‘times are tough’ and it becomes impossible to visualize an end todepressed circumstances.Typically, when approaches to economics are based on competitive market forces todetermine which services can be viably run in communities, rural and remote areas-and therefore the individuals and families who live in them- often miss out.The critical learning that arises out of this is that
when individuals and communitiesare under great pressure is not the time to rationalize and close services to generate savings and so called efficiencies.
Rather the challenge is to be creative in a time of duress and decline by reconceptualising how vital services- like education andtraining- can be retained and even expanded.
Moving to action
The 2020 Summit held earlier this year was charged with generating big ideas to takeAustralia forward. REFA is pleased that rural education and training did ‘make it ontothe radar’ but much remains to be done to move ideas proposed into real action ‘onthe ground’. The Expert Social Panel Drought Policy Review provides an idealopportunity to embrace key ideas from the 2020 Summit that will have, if implemented, a positive impact. They will contribute to reversing what is perceived to be a deficit view of many rural and remote contexts due to the grip of drought and the
Rural Education Forum Australia Drought Policy Review Submission 3continued growth of city and big population centre voices in articulating futures for Australia.The 2020 Rural Access and Equity Big Idea Paper comprises 11 strategies to progressimprovements. Ten of them are quoted below that REFA endorses and strongly believes if implemented, would make a significant contribution towards ensuring thatindividuals, families and communities in rural and remote Australia currently livingwith the impact of prolonged drought, could play a vital role in the sustainability of the nation. Perhaps more importantly from the perspective of the individual and basichuman rights, is ensuring that policy settings and subsequent funding, facilitate thedevelopment of education and training services that enable people to pursue their  potential.The 10 strategies endorsed by REFA are:
1.National Rural Education Strategy:
A national rural education strategywill provide a collaborative policy framework that embraces early childhoodthrough to adult learning for all remote, rural and regional Australians. Itwill ensure that no rural Australian is left behind, including those fromremote communities, remote properties and those with disabilities. Thestrategy will integrate research such as that recently completed by theNational Centre of Science, Information and Communication Technology,and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMMER),and build upon the MCEETYA framework for rural and remote education.
2.Flexible and online learning opportunities:
Many rural students cannotaccess educational courses because they are not available (for example,many rural students are disadvantaged through lack of language courses).For increased rural education opportunities, funding and support isrequired to develop and expand primary, secondary, TAFE and higher education online courses. This strategy will also encourage rural youngpeople to remain in rural communities to complete their education.
3.Satellite Education Centres with high tech, high speedcommunications:
The current shortage of teachers impact highest onremote, rural and regional education. Sending students to cities andregional centres for quality education can disrupt families, depletecommunities of whole generations and add unnecessary financial burden(however, it must be acknowledged that relocation is, and will continue tobe, necessary for some students to reach their potential and aspirations).This strategy proposes ‘state of the art’ education centres as the hub of towns, with the highest quality teachers zoomed in online. Communitieswill be empowered and enabled to seize opportunities. In these centres,teaching would be interactive, innovative, exciting and of the highestquality, while also maintaining the presence of face-to-face teaching.These centres will also encourage those from a metropolitan backgroundto relocate to rural and regional Australia for their studies. Rural ClinicalSchools for medicine students in rural and remote communities are anexample of successful satellite learning, and could be expanded to includeother disciplines within the existing infrastructure. This strategy will alsoprovide additional opportunities within Australia’s educational export trade.

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