Schooling in rural Australia

28 Mar 1988

This was one of the first country-wide reports to recommend ways of improving access to high quality schooling in rural areas of Australia.

Tabled in 1988, this is the first time a digitised version of this report, known as the 'Boomer report', has been made publically available.

The report was produced by the now-abolished Commonwealth Schools Commission.


Since its inception the Commonwealth Schools Commission (CSC) has focused attention on issues related to the education of students in rural areas. In its Report for the Triennium 1976-78 (1975), the Commission identified country students as an educationally disadvantaged group with special needs and funding requirements. In subsequent reports the Commission has continued to comment on the special educational needs of students living in rural areas. In 1977, on the advice of the Commission, the Government introduced the Disadvantaged Country Areas Program to help counteract some of the educational disadvantages caused to students by factors such as poverty, isolation and remoteness. This program evolved into the present Country Areas Program in 1982. The Country Areas Program continues to receive strong support from education authorities and school communities in rural areas.

In Quality and Equality (1985) the Commission stated its belief that there was an urgent need to address the broad issues in rural education at a local, State and national level. The report indicated that issues such as access to and the broadening of curriculum offerings require major attention and considerably increased resources. In line with comments made in Quality and Equality, the Commission recommended in its May 1986 report, Commonwealth Programs and Policy Development for Schools, that one of its major policy development projects to be undertaken in 1987 should focus on schooling in rural Australia. The Government accepted this recommendation, consistent with the concern about educational services in rural areas expressed in its April 1986 statement, Economic and Rural Policy.

Successive Commonwealth Governments have accepted that the needs of students living in rural Australia require Commonwealth action if the educational opportunities available to these students are to approximate, as much as possible, the opportunities available to students living in urban areas. Some examples of this action are subsidies to assist parents to purchase transceivers to enable their children to participate in school of the air programs (introduced in 1973), student assistance programs such as the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme (introduced in 1973), the Loan Video Program (introduced in 1982) and the Country Areas Program referred to above.

The Commission believes that the involvement of the Commonwealth in supporting the provision of education in rural areas has been one of the major factors contributing to recent improvements in rural schooling. There is still, however, much to be done. The Commission believes that it is therefore essential that the Commonwealth continues to provide its support aimed specifically at improving educational outcomes for students living in rural areas.

In this report the Commission focuses on factors which it considers central to improving educational services in rural Australia. It presents a substantial amount of information on these factors, in order to help stimulate informed discussion and appropriate action directed at improving the educational opportunities available to rural school students. It points to successful initiatives in rural schooling and highlights directions which it considers should be taken to further improve schooling in rural areas. Finally, the Commission emphasises areas in which the Commonwealth might appropriately and beneficially provide further support for schooling in rural Australia.

The committee behind the report was chaired by Garth Boomer and included Joan Brown, Lyndsay Connors, Van Davy, Vin Faulkner, Maxwell Howell, Joe Lo Bianco, Patricia Mitchell, Judith Redden, Fenton Sharpe, John Steinle and Errol West.

This report helped lead to the Rural and Remote Education Inquiry initiated by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1999.


Part of the Policy History Collection. Digitisation of this report has been supported by the National Library of Australia.

Reproduced with permission of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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