A new support payment will be offered for student placements in critical care fields.

In a significant move to alleviate financial pressures on students pursuing critical care professions, the Albanese Government has announced the introduction of a Commonwealth Prac Payment. 

This initiative is designed to support students during mandatory workplace placements, a requisite part of their qualification process in fields such as teaching, nursing, midwifery, and social work.

According to the announcement, the payment aims to address the financial hurdles that prevent many students from completing their placements, often referred to as “placement poverty”. 

Eligible higher education and vocational education and training (VET) students will receive $319.50 per week, equivalent to the single Austudy rate, during their placement periods. 

This support, which will commence from 1 July 2025, is means-tested and comes in addition to any other income support the students may already receive.

The policy draws on recommendations from the Universities Accord and the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce, highlighting its strategic alignment with broader governmental objectives like addressing skills shortages and promoting gender equality through the Working for Women framework.

“Placement poverty is a real thing. I have met students who told me they can afford to go to uni, but they can’t afford to do the prac,” said Education Minister Jason Clare.

However, the initiative has not been without criticism. 

Student groups have voiced concerns that the measures are insufficient and have called for more comprehensive support. 

Siena Hopper from the advocacy group Students Against Placement Poverty says “it's pretty much a slap in the face”. 

She said the payment is still significantly below the poverty line and does not extend to other sectors that also require unpaid placements.