By Boyd Champness
THOUSANDS of children in rural and remote regions throughout Australia are being denied their basic human right to education, according to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
The human rights commissioner, Mr Chris Sidoti, told The Age newspaper that a lack of services and the tyranny of distance were placing secondary education out of the reach of many country teenagers.
“Ive got no doubt at all that there are many children being denied a basic human right.
“There are large numbers of children – in their thousands I would guess – who have no effective right to secondary education,” he told the newspaper.
“I find it quite extraordinary that access to secondary education at all remains an issue in many parts of the country.”
The commission is presently conducting a national inquiry into rural and remote education.
Mr Sidoti said a lack of access to secondary education was a significant factor in the continuing decline of rural and regional communities.
“Education and training is seen as the key to the future. Farmers, for example, who have tertiary qualifications, have an income 40% higher than those who dont,” he said.
He said the perception that the Internet was bridging the gap between educational opportunities in the country and the city could not be further from the truth.
“IT (information technology) is seen as a way of reducing inequity through reducing distances and it certainly has the potential to do that.
“But there are worries at the moment because of cost and access that IT is making the inequity worse rather than reducing it.”