Australia relents on policy for young New Zealanders but criteria remain strict.
Australia has made a concession in its hardline policies denying expatriate New Zealanders access to government support and welfare programmes.
From January 2015 young Kiwis under 18 who have been living across the Tasman for 10 years will be able to gain student loans, a win for advocates warning of tens of thousands of New Zealanders condemned to the poverty cycle.
Australian educators and community organisations had been urging the federal Government to relax its rules on student loans, which effectively blocked young expats from higher education and vocational training.
A summit in Queensland of academics, education officials, community groups and local government representatives recently forecast further social problems after racial violence involving Pacific Island youths in Logan, near the Gold Coast.
The summit called for a change in policy to prevent young New Zealanders turning to gangs and drugs because they could not gain qualifications for work and were denied access to welfare or training programmes.
The change in rules to the Higher Education Loan Programme, announced yesterday by Tertiary Education Minister Craig Emerson will not help the thousands of New Zealanders unable to apply for the loans because they have already reached their 18th birthdays.
Nor will it affect the blanket bans on access to other federal and state support schemes, ranging from the dole to emergency housing. The bans apply to all New Zealanders arriving in Australia after February 2001 and living there on "non-protected" special category visas.
But it does open new pathways for many others, and follows the decision by the federal Parliament's human rights committee to seek an explanation from the Government for excluding New Zealanders from the new national disability insurance scheme.
The committee found the exclusion of "non-protected" Kiwis, while requiring them to help fund the scheme through a federal levy, breached Australia's human rights obligations.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said making tertiary education more accessible would lead to increased employment prospects.
"New Zealand already extends student loans to Australians who have lived in New Zealand for three years."
* From January 1, 2015, young Kiwis will be eligible for HELP student loans if they first entered Australia as a dependent minor aged under 18 years at least 10 years before applying.
* They must also have been resident in Australia for 80 per cent of the past decade, and have been resident in Australia for 18 months of the past two years at the time of application.
* The Government has promised funding of A$10.6 million over the next four years.