Cash incentives encouraging educators in Australia’s cities to move to regional areas offer up to $50,000 for some hard-to-staff teaching positions — marking a welcome injection for people struggling with cost of living pressures.
A majority of city-based teachers recently surveyed by the Regional Australia Institute would consider moving to a rural area for a better lifestyle, and more than half were unaware of the incentives on offer.
Staffing rural and remote Australian schools has been a challenge for decades due to a perceived lack of opportunities and perceptions that rural schools are poorly staffed and under-resourced, according to Melbourne University professors Hernan Cuervo and Dr Daniela Acquaro.
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But primary school teacher Courtney McCrone did not need an incentive to relocate — she said rural classrooms offer a more enriching teaching experience and is happy to tell others that it’s a move worth making.
McCrone decided to give up her busy teaching job in Manchester, UK to return home to Temora, more than 400km southwest of Sydney, in August 2020.
The 35-year-old mother-of three had lived and worked in the UK for 13 years.
Now 34-weeks pregnant and working in a temporary role at Temora Public School, she told 7NEWS.com.au: “It’s been great for our family.”
She said her three kids “can finally get into some sports” and added: “It’s a better work-life balance.”
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McCrone also coaches children’s sport, which she said has allowed her to become better acquainted with the students she also teaches at Temora Public School.
“Just knowing them means you build a better relationship. I just think there’s more of a community feel,” she said.
”You get a little bit more out of it.
“There are a lot of really great things about small towns — the people, the community feel. There is lots to do but also sometimes not having a lot to do can be a good thing.
“You spend a lot more time with your family, instead of racing about. It’s just a slower-paced life, less hustle and bustle. You spend a lot less time in the car travelling.
“There’s definitely things that people will miss, but there’s a lot more on offer here than they might expect.”
Courtney McCrone moved from Manchester to Temora, which she says has given her family a better work-life balance. Credit: SuppliedWith three kids, and another on the way, McCrone appreciates the family time a rural lifestyle gives them. Credit: Supplied
She’s not the only one to benefit from a regional move.
Kathleen Jon, who left Sydney to teach at Temora High School, said: “From a financial perspective, living is much easier in the bush.
“My money goes much further in Temora. I live in a three-bedroom house with my dogs — there is no way I could have afforded something like this in Sydney.”
“I also find the teaching is more rewarding … class sizes are smaller which means you can establish closer connections with your students, and you can actually see the impact you’re having on a student’s education.”
Cash incentives state-to-state
There is a range of cash incentives in Australia which are designed to convince the majority of metropolitan teachers (83 per cent) who said, in a Regional Australia Institute (RAI) survey, that they could be persuaded to make a regional move to do so.
In the survey of 500 city-based teachers and early childhood educators working in capital cities between July and August, one in six respondents said they would “definitely” make the move to a regional area.
“State governments are willing to pay decent money to teachers interested in taking up regional positions,” Regional Australia Institute CEO Liz Ritchie said.
“For example, a high school teacher interested in moving to Moree in regional NSW could earn an extra $45,000 thanks to rural incentives, relocation support payments and retention bonuses.”
And money is a huge motivator for teachers — 77 per cent of surveyed educators said a salary increase could convince them to move, while 59 per cent said they could be swayed by a cheaper cost of living.
A cash incentive, or recruitment bonus, relocation payment or family travel assistance, would be the most persuasive factor for 72 per cent of respondents.
There are incentives like this being offered across Australia. Here is what is currently available:
The Victorian government has invested another $27 million in financial incentives to fill hard-to-staff positions.
Qualified teachers could receive an initial payment of up to $50,000 before tax for taking those jobs.
Annual retention payments are also on offer for teachers who complete their second, third and fourth years of employment.
“(Payments for) relocation costs for regional and rural positions are also available,” the government said.
More information on incentives for teachers in Victoria can be found here.
New South Wales
In NSW, incentives depend based on a point system based on the remoteness of each school.
Annual rural teacher incentive packages between $20,000 and $30,000 are available, as well as rental subsidy between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of the applicants’ of rental costs.
Temporary teachers can also be fast-tracked to permanent status under the incentives scheme.
A 10-day trial before locking in the role, and additional personal leave and professional development days, are also available to transferring teachers.
More information on incentives for teachers in NSW can be found here.
A one-off payment of $2000 is available for Queensland teachers moving rurally, as well as a local travel allowance to allow the teacher and their dependants to move in and out of the community with ease.
“If you extend your stay and continue to teach in rural or remote locations for longer than the required minimum service period, you may also be entitled to receive an additional allowance in some communities,” the Queensland government said.
This is known as a recognition of service payment.
A reduction of the teacher’s HELP debt is also on offer for those who extend their stay in a remote location.
More information on incentives for teachers in Queensland can be found here.
The WA government has added 18 schools to the now 66-strong list of institutions offering cash incentives to relocating teachers.
The state bases the sum of the incentive on the location of the school, using a tiered system from one to four.
Tier 4 schools can offer $5000 incentives, Tier 3 schools can offer $7000 incentives, Tier 2 schools can offer $10,000 incentives, and Tier 1 schools can offer $17,000 incentives.
Relocating teachers will get 25 per cent of that when they start the job, and the other 75 per cent at the end of the school year should they stay in the role until then.
More information on incentives for teachers in Western Australia can be found here.
In South Australia, Country Incentive Zone Allowance (CIZA) payments offer teachers working in country schools an annual zone allowance between $1989 and $10,023, depending on the zone.
One-off payments made on a teacher’s first permanent appointment in four country zones between $518 and $1038 are also available.
Allowances to compensate for an adverse environment, abnormal depreciation of motor vehicles, isolation, and the cost of travelling back to Adelaide from distant school during the holidays are also offered.
More information on incentives for teachers in South Australia can be found here.
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