New National Referral Centre helps more families access free internet

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The Federal Government has made it easier for families to access reliable internet for school students.

Changes announced last week are designed to give eligible families easier access to free home internet through the School Student Broadband Initiative (SSBI).

Families who meet the scheme’s criteria can now nominate themselves directly through the new National Referral Centre, run by Anglicare Victoria.

Establishing the National Referral Centre means up to 30,000 eligible families can join the SSBI without having to deal with a third-party nomination. Applying for the scheme is now as simple as phoning the new centre or making contact online.

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NBN voucher offers reliable internet savings

Families who are approved for the SSBI, will each receive an NBN voucher they can present to their nearest broadband provider.

The Government is supporting NBN Co’s implementation and delivery of this initiative with a $4.5 million grant.

The need for the SSBI became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns when many students were forced to shift to online learning.

With numerous students lacking access to quality internet at home, many Australian students risked being left behind academically. The first families approved for free internet access through the SSBI were connected during term one 2023. The 12 months of free service begins from the day the service is activated for each family. The period in which a family can be nominated for the initiative has been extended to 30 April 2024.

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Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said it was a necessity for every Australian student in 2023 to have access to fast and reliable internet. Without it, they can’t fully participate in online learning at school or home.

To be eligible for SSBI, a family must:

• Have a child living at home and enrolled in an Australian school

• Be referred by an organisation or self-nominate through the National Referral Centre

• Not have an active broadband service over the NBN network

• Live in a place where they can get a standard NBN service

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• Have not had an active NBN connection during the past 14 days

Reducing the digital divide

Since launching in January this year, the SSBI has connected more than 4000 families across Australia. An extra 18,700 connection vouchers have been given to eligible families.

Anglicare Victoria CEO Paul McDonald said good internet was crucial for modern education, and he wanted to ensure no kids are left behind.

“The School Student Broadband Initiative is part of the Albanese Government’s commitment to narrow the digital divide and reduce affordability barriers so that more families can take advantage of the internet,” said Communications Minister Michelle Rowland.

“The new National Referral Centre will make it even easier for eligible families to sign up to the program. Anglicare Victoria is well-placed to operate the Centre, given their fantastic work supporting and empowering children, young people and families. I encourage families who may be eligible to contact the National Referral Centre to participate in this important program.”

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To contact the National Referral Centre, phone 1800 954 610 or visit the SSBI National Referral Centre online.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live