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NUS condemns government for refusing to change age of independence

“18-21 year old students are struggling to put a roof over their heads and food on the table and the Minister's solution is that they simply turn 22 overnight,” the National Union of Students said.

NUS representatives rallied outside of Parliament House last week to demand changes to the age of independence. Photo courtesy of the NUS.

The National Union of Students (NUS) criticised the government last night for refusing to lower the Youth Allowance age of independence from 22 to 18 years of age.

This criticism comes after the NUS received a response from the Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston, in regards to a petition to parliament they submitted last June.

The petition, which received 13,360 signatures, asked the government to recognise that “young people are independents from the age of 18”. This would have allowed more students to access Centrelink’s Youth Allowance, especially those coming from difficult or unstable households.

In a statement published last night, the NUS accused the government of being “seriously out of touch with students”.

“The government’s response to an increased cost of living, unstable work and student poverty is that ‘parents should be the ones to support their children’,” the statement read.

“This response does nothing for students who are struggling to balance increasingly casualised and insecure work with their studies. 18-21 year old students are struggling to put a roof over their heads and food on the table and the Minister’s solution is that they simply turn 22 overnight.

“It’s time to Change The Age of Independence, it’s time to change this rotten Government.”

In the Minister’s response to the petition, Ruston said: “The Government believes that parents should support their children, where they are able, until they achieve financial independence.”

“Applying the parental and parent income test ensures Government support is targeted to those families least able to support their child/children with living and study-related costs,” Ruston said.

USyd SRC President Lauren Lancaster told Honi: “The NUS’s petition was supported by previous SRCs and the current Council at USYD. We are deeply disheartened to see this sterile and indifferent government response to a hardfought national campaign that brought students together across political lines to advocate for basic dignity and autonomy for young people in Australia.

“Not only does it reflect a parochial and nuclear idea about the way young people relate to their family, but it shows yet again that even when confronted with evidence of the need to change, this government won’t do it,” Lancaster said.

Youth Allowance payments currently sit at $37.89 per day, a figure that has been criticised for being well below the $59 poverty line.The Minister’s response follows the delivery of the federal budget last Tuesday, which saw little support for students beyond a $250 one-off payment for welfare recipients.