Some school administration staff are receiving rental subsidies in Katherine, NT Parliament has been told.
There are one and two teachers living two or three bedroom houses, Education Minister Selena Uibo said.
Speaking in response to questions yesterday, Ms Uibo said there are almost 300 education staff in Katherine and only one third of those staff receive the particular subsidy.
Ms Uibo was commenting on the controversial decision to review $500,000 of the $2 million paid in subsidies used to lure teachers to Katherine.
Community members have supported teachers who fear the review will lead to cuts of as much as $24,000 from their yearly package.
The Australian Education Union NT has warned of a possible teacher exodus from Katherine given their upset over the plan.
Ms Uibo told Parliament no decision had been made.
She said the Education Department was undergoing a substantial review into an area which has not been cost benefitted in 30 years.
"There have been subsidies in the Katherine township for our hard-working, dedicated, committed, passionate teachers. For over 30 years this particular subsidy has not been indexed."
Ms Uibo said "we are talking about 94 affected people. It is really important that through this review process that all of those affected 94 staff-and not all of them are teachers, there are admin staff receiving the subsidy-that we get a clear view of who is receiving the subsidy, what is the amount of the subsidy being received, and how we can be more efficient in that area."
She said there were one and two teachers living in either two or three bedroom houses in Katherine.
"There are houses where we could look at efficiency measures without looking at further increasing the subsidy.
"We are looking at clear messaging of the actual subsidy in Katherine which is over $2m. That is largely left out of the conversation. We are not talking about the removal of a subsidy. We are talking about the efficiency of where the subsidy is being used.
"There are costs that are being charged against this subsidy that are unrelated to the housing itself.
"We are looking at the solutions for the housing subsidy."
Katherine MLA Sandra Nelson also commented on the teacher subsidies in Parliament yesterday.
"We've had to make some difficult decisions with regard to the Root and Branch Review, not least of which is the teachers' housing subsidies in Katherine," she said.
"Teacher housing subsidies were introduced 30 years ago. This has continued without any comprehensive review for 30 years. There are inequalities and inefficiencies in regards to this subsidy."
Ms Nelson said teacher housing subsidies have a flow on benefit to the real estate industry in Katherine.
"When the Department of Defence decided to establish Tindal Airforce Base in Katherine in the late 80s the NT Government at the time, the Katherine Town Council, seized the opportunity and developed the suburb that is now Katherine East.
"Katherine East is home to more than half of Katherine's population and is out of the flood zone. Katherine East has, in recent years, expanded significantly which of course is due to the visionary forward planning by previous Labor governments who released land to allow for development for the first time in 30. It has created almost 1000 new house and land blocks in Katherine East.
"Of course, it came with benefits to the economy. The rapid expansion of Katherine East with new housing has also had a significant impact on the real estate market of Katherine. This expansion has contributed to a decrease in values of properties in Katherine North and Katherine South and an increase in properties available on the rental market," she said.
Ms Nelson said she supported teachers working with their union "in coming up with viable options that not only make Katherine attractive for teachers to come and stay, but affordable for the average renter-for the person who fits tyres at Beaurepaires, for the person who works at Shell service station, for the disability support worker at Somerville".
"Where we have front line jobs, the government already has a scheme called the National Affordable Rental Scheme, where front line workers can access rental properties at 20-30% less than the market. This scheme is available for teachers and nurses and other key areas. This initiative already exists.
"In regard to the teacher housing subsidy, I will be working with my colleagues in caucus and working closely with the union and with my colleague the Minister for Education to put forward options relating to teache recruitment and retention for Katherine. Teachers are the backbone of the education system. You can have a class without a classroom. You cannot have a lesson without a teacher.
"Changes in the way the Department of Education support teachers in regional, rural and remote areas will obviously impact us in Katherine but if these changes mean that our schools are better resourced, our teachers are better supported, then I stand beside the Minister for Education and agree with her wholeheartedly when she says that if it comes between choosing ad hoc entitlements or investing directly in schools, the choice is obvious. We will choose the schools and students every time."
Ms Nelson said she was confident the department would continue to recruit and retain qualified, experienced teachers to regional areas, specifically to Katherine, because not only was the Territory a great place to live and learn, it was a great place for career development.
"Due to the NT Government's budget repair strategy, the NT Department of Education has announced $5.7m in savings. This includes $500 000 earmarked for cuts to Katherine teacher housing subsidies. There is a process involved in all of this. As I mentioned earlier in my speech, this is a subsidy that has been in place for 30 years without any real comprehensive review. That review is ongoing, it has commenced.
"The Minister for Education has said many times that this was not going to be an immediate decision. No decision had been made and this was not going to be implemented immediately."
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