457 Visa Education Charge introduced to keep up with demand on WA Schools

The Western Australia state government announced last week that they will be introducing new education charges for families on 457 visas, from next year onwards.

The new fees are based on a individual charge for the children of 457 visa holders to attend Western Australia state schools and will in turn cost parents each year, $4000 per child.

The state decision has shocked many families that are already residing in Western Australia under the 457 visa scheme.

Dublin born, MP Stephen Dawson said he has been speaking to many families who feared they would not be able to remain, if the charges were introduced. He spoke of one family who are on an annual income of $77,000 and have five children.

“Three are school age, next year they will have four. They will be slugged $16,000 to send their kids to school.”

The Australian parliament said that there are 8,600 children of 457 visa holders already enrolled in Western Australian schools and that it costs the Australian government up to $15,000 to educate a child.The government has already estimated that the new charge will bring in $17 million between 2013 -2014 and $120 billion over the next four years between 2016 -2017.

Western Australia Premier, Colin Barnett defended the measure, stating that no charge had been introduced before to support children who were temporally attending state schools. He also highlighted that many schools have had to bring in specialist language and English teachers to keep up with the increase of influx of students on temporary visas.

“However the numbers have now created a problem in our school system and its starting to be a real cost on the State government. So we believe until such time as they become permanent Australian citizens, they should pay some part of the cost of their child being educated. We’ve yet to determine the criteria and that will be done in coming weeks.”

Western Australia is not the first state to introduce such charges with New South Wales introducing similar fees for the children of 457 visa holders in 2011. Their fees ranged from $4000-$6,000 per child per year and in the Capital Territories fees ranged between $9,000-$14,000 for each child.

While the introduction of these fees are far from desirable, I can understand the reasoning behind it. It costs the Western Australia government thousands of dollars to educate children so temporary residents who have only paid tax for a short time, are getting the full benefit of the education system subsidised by the full time Australian tax payer.

It is the reality of immigrating to Australia, but it also insures the expansion of the Western Australia education system, as well as better education and future for the children of many families moving to but also already living in Western Australia.