by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard has promised that more will be done to get country kids into universities and other tertiary education.
The Prime Minister made the promise while replying to Rob Oakeshott, a New South Wales independent, at question time in Federal parliament.
Mr Oakeshott has championed a targeted approach to getting more young people, from rural and regional areas into universities.
Ms Gillard said she had been told, repeatedly, while she was Education Minister in the previous government. that the low participation rates of young people from rural and regional areas in tertiary studies was just a fact of life, and nothing much could be done about it.
“I think we should reassure ourselves that changes are possible,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said Australians need to be “more optimistic” about the opportunities available for post school education in rural and regional areas.
Ms Gillard said her government had already taken steps to raise the university participation rates in rural areas.
She said, too, that these rates are already rising, although they had been falling under the Howard government.
However Ms Gillard also admitted that the government needed “to go further down the road” Mr Oakeshott had been advocating, than it has already.
Mr Oakeshott has said, outside parliament, that a recent report, funded by the Federal government, will be “a blueprint” for expanding tertiary education in rural areas.
“This is important work that has been done by many local people and it will deliver”, Mr Oakeshott, whose electorate is on the New South Wales mid coast, said.
“The education push on the Mid North Coast now begins in earnest,” he added.
“This report has involved many meetings and much thought over three years.
“We now enter the implementation stage.”
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Tuesday May 21
The Dow Jones Index fell 18.97 points to 15,335.40
Unions are seeking a rise of $30 a week in the National Wage Case, which opens today
The latest Morgan Poll shows support for the L-NP down 1 per cent to 55 per centover the past week and the ALP at 45 per cent, 1 per cent, on a two-party preferred basis.
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