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University of Melbourne launches $5000 Drought Recovery Scholarships

The University of Melbourne is offering 100 scholarships each valued at $5000 to assist regional and rural students – whose families have been hit by drought — to study at the University.

The University of Melbourne’s $500,000 Drought Recovery Scholarship program is for commencing undergraduate study at the University in 2007.

Sixty Scholarships will be allocated to students enrolling in Faculty of Land and Food Resources programs, especially at the Dookie, the University of Melbourne campus near Shepparton – one of the regions hardest hit by drought.

A further 40 Scholarships will be made available to eligible students enrolling in any other University course.

The Drought Recovery Scholarship can be used as an allowance to assist with educational and living expenses, and accommodation costs at the University of Melbourne and affiliated residential Colleges.

University of Melbourne Dean of Land and Food Resources, Professor Ron Slocombe believes this will provide the most benefit to families in need because while HECS fees can be deferred, living costs and upfront educational costs cannot.

Professor Slocombe says the University of Melbourne is acutely aware that drought is one of the critical rural and regional issues facing young people, families and communities.

He is concerned that drought is likely to threaten the number of people with a tertiary education remaining in rural and regional areas.

“Drought impoverishes regional communities beyond immediate loss of earnings,” Professor Slocombe said.

“It also diminishes the capacity of regional students to invest in their tertiary education. A lack of suitably qualified professionals in regional communities will have substantial enduring negative impact long after the drought breaks, impoverishing regional communities for a generation.

“The University of Melbourne Drought Recovery Scholarship program is therefore a real step towards reducing the impact of drought on regional communities.”

Award of the Drought Recovery Scholarships will be based on academic merit and on demonstrated financial need related to the effects of drought.

Scholarships will be available to commencing students enrolled in a full-time undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne in 2007 and whose home residence is within one of the Exceptional Circumstances (EC) areas as defined by the Australian Government Bureau of Rural Sciences.

Normally, the applicant’s family would be in receipt of EC Relief Support Payments from Centrelink and/or EC Interest Rate Subsidy Support administered by the relevant state authority. Prior to commencement of studies, recipients of the award will be required to provide evidence of EC Relief Income Support Payments from Centrelink supported by a certificate and/or EC Interest Rate Subsidy administered by the relevant state authority supported by a letter of confirmation.

The Victorian Farmers Federation has strongly endorsed the University of Melbourne’s move to offer Drought Recovery Scholarships. It has also provided advice regarding establishment of suitable eligibility criteria.

The Chair of the University’s residential colleges, Dr Damian Powell, also applauded the initiative. “These new Scholarships will ensure that students whose circumstances have been affected by drought can continue to find a home at the University of Melbourne. They offer crucial support at a critical time,” Dr Powell said.

Students awarded Melbourne National or Melbourne Access Scholarships will not be eligible for a Melbourne Drought Recovery Scholarship. However, students may be eligible for a Drought Recovery Scholarship in addition to other financial support provided by the University.

Students who have already applied for Access Melbourne, the University’s special entry and access scholarships scheme, will need to submit an additional application for a Drought Recovery Scholarship in order to be considered.

More information is available at http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/scholarships/ugrad/

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