Higher Australian uni fees last straw for Kiwi family of five

The Wadley family on the Gold Coast: Father Jeff Wadley (left), Brooke Wadley, an unnamed family friend, Ashlee Wadley, Jordan Wadley and mum Kell Wadley. (Photo: Facebook)

4 May 2017

A Kiwi family of five who have lived in Australia for 10 years say Government proposals to raise university fees there are the last straw.

Kell and Jeff Wadley, who live on the Gold Coast, said they had already been considering a return to Christchurch, their old home town. The prospect of paying two or three times as much for their 17-year-old son Jordan’s law degree sealed the deal.

“Our mind’s made up,” Kell Wadley said. “We are heading back before Christmas. With the cost of university fees going up, it’s just unrealistic for us to stay here.”

They are among many Kiwis reconsidering their future in Australia following surprise changes to citizenship rules and education costs.

The tuition fee increases vary depending on residency status. And the Australian Government says new access to student loans will open up tertiary education to more Kiwis.

But the family said access to student support did not offset the unaffordably high cost of studying law.

Like many Kiwis, they moved to Australia during the global financial crisis. Jeff Wadley, a dairy farm manager, earned more for a 38-hour week in the Gold Coast than a 100-hour week in Christchurch.

“When the going was good, it was grand,” he said. “But since the GFC they’ve just turned nasty – in politics, in the workplace, everywhere. I don’t know what they’ve got against Kiwis.”

Although Australia offered new economic opportunities, the family also discovered the pitfalls of 2001 law changes which removed New Zealanders’ access to some entitlements. Their daughter Ashlee contracted pneumonia as a 2-year-old in 2010, forcing Kell off work, and they were unable to get a sickness benefit or carers’ allowance.

An aged-care worker, Wadley does not earn the required A$53,900 ($57,000) to qualify for a special pathway to citizenship announced last year. She was partly encouraged to return home by a recent settlement in New Zealand that will see her profession paid more.

“We’ve been living here 10 years, paid taxes, we’ve got a first-home buyers’ grant and we do get some family assistance. But we came over here to have a better lifestyle for our kids and it’s just not realistic anymore.”

[Read the NZ Herald article].

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