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Going to university is a rite of passage for many Australian students. It’s a time of adventure and growth, but it can also bring with it a burden of financial worry and pressure. Even with Australia’s extensive HECS-HELP education loans scheme, uni life is expensive - especially for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Education itself is a costly venture. When you add ongoing healthcare and mobility equipment expenses, it can seem impossible to afford a degree or PhD.
Australia is the land of giving everyone a fair go, and education is no exception to this. Organisations and universities across the country offer grants and scholarships for students with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Please read on for our comprehensive guide to education funding for Australian students with disabilities.
Australia’s Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) is a government loan initiative designed to assist Australian students with tuition-related expenses. Loan repayments are made through the income tax system once your income is above the payment threshold, which changes every financial year. These loans are interest-free, but they are indexed each year to accommodate for inflation.
There are five different loan types:
HECS-HELP loans eligible students money for their student contribution costs.
FEE-HELP assists eligible fee-paying students to pay their tuition fees.
SA-HELP is a loan to cover the costs of your student services and amenities fees.
OS-HELP helps eligible students to pay for their costs when studying overseas.
VET Student Loans assist eligible students to pay tuition fees for selected vocational education and training courses.
Centrelink Student Start-Up Loan
The Start-Up Loan is a twice-yearly payment made to eligible higher education students who receive Youth Allowance, Austudy, or ABSTUDY. The loan amount is added to your HELP Loan debt, but unlike the HELP Loan, the total amount is deposited into your bank account once approved. You can use your Start-Up Loan for necessary study-related costs such as textbooks, equipment, and living expenses.
Australia-wide Scholarships For People with Disabilities
The June Opie Fellowship
The June Opie Fellowship is available to graduate students with severe disability. The fellowship is geared towards students who are looking to enter a professional field, particularly university teaching or research. Application forms are available from the scholarship offices of all major universities, and applications close every year on October 1st.
Australian Disability and Indigenous Peoples’ Education Fund
People with disabilities can apply to the Australian Disability and Indigenous Peoples’ Education Fund for assistance with formal and informal education costs. The Fund’s founders believe “the importance of education should not be measured in graduate degrees and diplomas… the importance of education should be measured by people’s continual learning of cultures, relationships, history, tolerance and honing the skills to apply this learning.”
The Fund aims to provide grants of up to $2,500 every six months to people with disabilities, and applications close at the end of March and September each year.
State-based Scholarships For People with Disabilities
The Alastair McEwin Scholarship at the University of Adelaide
Alastair McEwin, the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner, established this scholarship to support students with disabilities during their studies at Adelaide University.
The university awards it annually and applicants need to be registered with the University of Adelaide Disability Support program.
Sir Charles Bright Scholarships
The Sir Charles Bright Scholarships are awarded annually to students with disabilities who are studying at university, TAFE, or other recognised institutions. The scholarship is worth $1,500, and applications close on December 24th every year.
Victoria University Equity Scholarships
Victoria University offers Equity Scholarships to students who experience educational disadvantages, including students with low incomes, students who experience hardship, carers, students with disabilities, indigenous peoples.
Justice Victoria’s Disability Scholarship Program
With this scholarship program, Justice Victoria aims to achieve a long-term increase in public service employment for people with disabilities. It offers a limited number of scholarships for people with disabilities who are studying law, criminology, paralegal studies, psychology, social work, and other justice-related fields.
New South Wales and the ACT
ParaQuad NSW Scholarship
ParaQuad awards scholarships to students in NSW/ACT with spinal cord injuries to assist with education costs for TAFE, universities, and registered training organisations. Applicants must be Australian citizens living in NSW, have spinal cord injuries, have a high academic record, and show motivation and perseverance in their academic career. The ParaQuad scholarships close in February each year.
Griffith University Uni-Start Equity Scholarships
Uni-Start Equity Scholarships are available to students whose studies have been impacted by disadvantage or hardship. This includes financial hardship, home environment and responsibilities, English language difficulty, illness and disability, and other education disruptions.
Special Circumstances University Postgraduate Awards at the University of Western Australia
The University of Western Australia awards a $30,000 grant called Special Circumstances University Postgraduate Awards to eligible applicants whose studies have been impacted by exceptional personal circumstances, including chronic illness and disability.
Tasmania Access Bursary
The Tasmania Access Bursary is available to students who need to live away from home or travel a significant distance in order to attend university, and those who need financial assistance to study. Although it is open to all students, preference is given to people from equity groups. There are up to 100 grants of $1,000 each available every year.
Multi-state Scholarships For People with Disabilities
The Walter and Eliza Hall Trust Opportunity Scholarship
The Walter and Eliza Hall Trust Opportunity Scholarship has funding Australian students with disabilities since 1912. There are three $10,000 scholarships available for 2019.
To be eligible, you must:
- Have a permanent physical disability
- Attend public school in the ACT, NSW, QLD, or Victoria
- Be in year 12, intending to apply for university in 2019
- Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
You can find more information about scholarships and grants in your local area on ADCET’s scholarship listing, or by searching the Good Universities Guide scholarship database. You can also find out more information from your school’s disability advocacy office.