Students rely on food handouts despite government 'support'

THE Australian Government has reiterated its support for local tertiary students despite some scholars at the University of the Sunshine Coast relying on food handouts to survive.

Minister for Human Services Marise Payne said the Federal Government supported students chasing a tertiary education.

"It is essential we have a well-educated and highly skilled workforce," she said.

"That is why this government is serious about supporting and encouraging students to complete their tertiary education.

"There are a wide range of additional payments students could be eligible for, such as rent assistance, fares allowance, the student start-up scholarship and relocation scholarships."

The situation is highlighted by the demand on the daily free meals and food bank grocery handouts organised by the university's Student Guild.

"For some students, especially those who come from a low socio-economic background, services like the community kitchen and emergency food relief can really make university achievable for them," the guild's president, Joelene Ogle, said. "Having equal access to university is essential.

"These services help those students who never would have been able to complete university without financial help."

Mature-age student Rachelle Lamb said she worked full-time and part-time jobs to help make ends meet as she studied a full-time degree in nutrition.

She said the normal cost of living was compounded by expenses like textbooks for her course.

"If you look at my bank account now, it's minus $2, but I'll get by on my next paycheque which is going in today, so I wouldn't say it's easy but I get by better than a lot of other people," Ms Lamb said.

"My second job is to pay for the bits and pieces that pop up, whereas my full-time job covers my everyday costs.

"I'm already paying back my Higher Education Contribution Scheme debt because I earn too much."

Third-year paramedic student Chris Alcorn said Centrelink should allow students to earn a little extra before cutting support payments.