Irish parents face paying for free state schools in Western Australia
Move to affect those working on temporary visas
Perth, Western Australia. The resource-rich state has overtaken New South Wales as the most popular destination for Irish workers on temporary visas
Irish parents working in Western Australia on temporary 457 visas are to be charged AU$4,000 (€2,760) a year to send each child to state schools from next January.
The 457 visa allows foreign workers sponsored by an employer to live in Australia for up to four years with their partner and children.
The Irish Families in Perth social network, which has more than 3,000 members, claims some families may be forced to move back to Ireland or elsewhere in Australia where school fees are not levied on temporary workers as a result of the decision.
Western Australia state treasurer Troy Buswell said the fee was necessary because of the “record growth” in student numbers over the past two years, due to a baby boom in the mid-2000s and high levels of immigration from other states and overseas.
Delivering his budget speech last week, Mr Buswell said there were now 8,600 children of workers on 457 visas in government-funded schools in WA, up from just 290 in 2005.
“The simple growth in numbers has put massive pressure on the education system and by extension, massive pressure on the balance of the taxpayers,” he said.
The government of Western Australia hopes to raise more than $34 million a year by introducing the fee.
WA is the third state in Australia to introduce school fees for the children of temporary residents. New South Wales charges between $4,500 and $5,500 depending on the child’s school year, while the Australian Capital Territory charges up to $13,900 for the final year of high school.
There are more than 4,000 Irish people currently working on 457 visas in WA. The resource-rich region has overtaken New South Wales as the most popular destination for Irish workers on the visas.
Assistant secretary of the Irish Families in Perth group Eileen Battle said their members were “absolutely outraged and extremely worried”.
“A lot of our members would have emigrated for financial reasons, and this is a cost they didn’t factor in . . . I can see a lot of families having to come home because of this, or move somewhere like Queensland if they can find work there.”