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Chronically-ill students get double dose of difficulty

Australia’s school system is failing some of its most vulnerable young people by leaving them unsupported in their education.

A new Victoria University report reveals chronically-ill children who need to take extended absences from school are neither officially acknowledged nor assisted to keep up.

Dr Julie White, senior research fellow at the Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning says young people are now surviving conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, accidents and diabetes that could have meant early death just a short time ago.

“These children have survived major health challenges but are not yet systematically supported to thrive in education,” Dr White said.

“Thousands of Australian children with serious health conditions miss lengthy periods of school as they cycle between doctors, hospital, home and the classroom but with no government policy or official practical assistance, these students exist in a ‘no-man’s land’ intersection of health and education.”

Dr White and her team’s study, Young Australians, illness and education, is a first-time look at a national database of more than 2000 children who miss significant amounts of school through illness.

The database, compiled by the Ronald McDonald Learning Program, was analysed in the absence of official government data, and does not include potentially thousands more Australian students with health conditions who are regularly absent from school.

Dr White is calling on government to be more aware of its obligations to these students by actively monitoring and supporting them.

“It’s clear that Australia’s education administrators are out of step with health advances for young people because at the moment, students and their families have to find their own ways to advocate, communicate, and negotiate about missed school,” Dr White says.

“The students are not rare and individual medical aberrations, but a sizeable collective of young Australians who require appropriate attention and support.” ENDS

Media contact: Julia Johnston, 03 9919 4549, 0401 136 114 [email protected]         

Ann Marie Angebrandt: 03 9919 5487 [email protected]                                                       

Read the full report.

The Victoria Institute is a research institute with a focus on inclusive education.  The Institute works with researchers, teachers, communities and policy makers to improve educational experiences and outcomes. The Institute forms part of the College of Education at Victoria University.



Public discussion: Unwell and Uneducated?

A panel discussion presented by Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning and hosted by television presenter, actor, writer and comedian Corinne Grant.


Monday 1 June, 5.30pm to 7.15pm (5.45pm start)


Theatrette, State Library of Victoria
Entrance 3, 179 La Trobe Street, Melbourne

Audio and video feeds will be available to media.

Panellists and presenters

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