The School Student Broadband Initiative will be easier to access with families able to self nominate through the National Referral Centre

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Access to one year of free home internet will now be easier for thousands of families with school students following a big change to the Albanese government’s School Student Broadband Initiative.

The introduction of a National Referral Centre, announced Tuesday, will simplify the process for up to 30,000 families eligible for the SSBI, while saving each household about $1000.

Instead of waiting to be referred by a third party, families who meet the eligibility criteria can now nominate themselves for SSBI by contacting the referral centre, led by Anglicare Victoria.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said too many students were getting left behind due to unreliable or non-existing home internet.

“In 2023, every Australian school student needs access to reliable fast broadband, otherwise, they just can’t participate in online learning at school or at home,” she said.

“While many Australian families have a home internet connection, so many do not and that’s why we see this project as a key cost of living measure.”

Since its launch in January, the SSBI has connected more than 4000 families nationwide, with an additional 18,700 connection vouchers issued to eligible families.

These vouchers enable families to redeem free NBN internet access through participating providers.

Ms Rowland said with Anglicare Victoria running the new referral centre, they expected the conversion rate of vouchers to dramatically increase.

“Anglicare Victoria is well-placed to operate the Centre, given their fantastic work supporting and empowering children, young people and families,” she said.

“We’re also trying to identify those families who might have some complex needs and might need some extra case management so we can turn those vouchers into a conversion rate that’s a lot higher than we’re seeing right now.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing where we get by the end of term four because once you have a family connected, it’s not only the school student who is going to benefit, it’s going to be the entire family.”

Anglicare Victoria CEO Paul McDonald said the initiative would be “life-changing” for many families, particularly when access to the internet is a critical aspect of modern education.

“Anglicare Victoria is a leading children youth and family welfare organisation committed and focused on providing the best services to families experiencing disadvantage … because we know good functioning families raise good children and they experience all the positive things that we all enjoy,” he said.

“The SSBI levels the playing field for disadvantaged kids, particularly at a time when the cost of living is high.

“We don’t want to see kids living in families that are finding things tough and struggling while being left behind.”

He said the direct link between families and the referral centre meant Anglicare was better placed to help with any additional needs should they arise.

“A family can directly contact our workers and through the National Referral Center and have the voucher directly emailed to their home rather than them going through a third party and needing to tell all their business to them,” he said.

“We think this will be a more direct way for these families to access this fantastic option for them … and we’re also interested to hear if these families are having other issues going on that we could assist with from emergency relief or issues going on in the home, that we’re able to actually provide that extra further support for.”

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