The families of 457 visa holders in Western Australia will have to pay fees to send their children to a government school from 2015, it has been confirmed.
A tuition fee of $4,000 per annum ($1,000 per term) would apply to a family’s first child enrolled in the state education system and $2,000 each for second and subsequent children from the same family, and the charges will be introduced a year later than originally planned in 2015.
‘This means that anyone who is already living here on a 457 visa or who has already lodged a visa application to come here soon will not have to pay unexpected fees for schooling next year,’ said state premier Colin Barnett. ‘But we are giving plenty of notice that the fees will apply from the year after next, giving people time to make the necessary arrangements to pay the fees,’ he added.
Barnett said there would also be provisions for hardship to take into account exceptional circumstances and to pay by instalments. He explained that the decision has been taken to introduce the fees for families of visa holders because of a huge rise in the numbers arriving in the state which has been putting a strain on the education budget.
Department of Education figures show that there were 973 new enrolments of students on 457 visas last year and 521 new enrolments to date this year. ‘On average it costs more than $15,000 to educate a child in a Western Australian state government school and we have concluded the state government has to introduce this measure to try to recoup some of the cost of educating these children from overseas,’ said Barnett.
‘This decision reflects the pressure on the state’s budget and the reality that Western Australian taxpayers contribute to the cost of services such as education over a lifetime of paying taxes, rather than a period of just four years, as with 457 visa holders,’ he explained.
It has been estimated that the number of 457 students was approximately 4,000, but from next year schools would be required to verify data on the visa status of students as part of the normal enrolment process to assess exactly how many children of 457 visa holders were in the system.
Barnett also pointed out that 457 visa holders in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory paid higher fees than those proposed in Western Australia but had access to some exemptions. Temporary residents already have to pay for disability services and public hospital treatment because they do not qualify for Medicare benefits under Federal legislation.
‘I am aware of the concerns expressed in some parts of the community on the impact that this measure may have on some families who are here on temporary work visas, particularly those on low incomes and in regional areas who have become a valued part of the community,’ Barnett said.
‘We hope that by giving people notice of the measures and adopting a family discount, current 457 visa holders will have time to assess their options and future visa applicants will know what to expect when they come to Western Australia,’ he added.
If 457 visa holders obtain permanent residency they will no longer be subject to the fees and become entitled to free public education.